CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 4. . . .September 25, 2009
Thus, the young Sherlock Holmes describes his arch rival, Malefactor, in Vanishing Girl, Peacock’s latest addition of the series. As with his first two cases, Peacock has skilfully recreated the sinister world of Victorian London in which Sherlock Holmes was originally written. In this particular case, Holmes is captivated by the mysterious disappearance of Victoria Rathbone, the daughter of wealthy parents living in London. While the police, led by the pompous Lestrade Sr., try desperately to find the girl, Holmes uses his burgeoning skills to take in the more subtle clues, such as a watermark on the paper left by the kidnappers. He takes a wild train ride into the countryside, barely escaping the clutches of a guard and, at one point, ending up on the top of the train and balancing like “Blondin.” The clues he discovers at St. Neots both complicate and confuse his understanding of the case. It is when Holmes uncovers the secret past of Victoria Rathbone’s mother that he suspects a deeper duplicity of the facts. The potential of ghosts and ferocious beasts guarding the kidnapped girl help make the ending to this story a classic Sherlock Holmes adventure.
Peacock has done his research. Clearly he has been to the places he writes about as mentioned in the “Acknowledgements.” Further, one cannot help but appreciate his close reading of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Peacock understands Holmes. Even a cursory consideration of the Hound of the Baskervilles makes this all the more poignant. Both Peacock’s Holmes and Doyle’s Holmes traverse the city and countryside to find clues, make extensive use of the powers of observation, and utilize the most infuriating skill of all: keeping the facts to himself until the end! Vanishing Girl is a story in which Holmes is powerfully developed. The reader discovers the origins of his learning self-defense and his infatuation with scientific “potions” (in this case, opium) to help solve crimes. Readers of the first two stories will appreciate the developing relationship between Holmes and Irene (not a happy one) and his deeper hatred of Malefactor. What a pleasurable, authentic read. This book (and series) would make an excellent unit for mysteries studies, story writing unit, or young adult readings of Victorian England.
David Ward is a children’s author and assistant professor at Oregon’s Willamette University.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.