________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 16 . . . . April 4, 2008


Death in the Air: His Second Case. (The Boy Sherlock Holmes).

Shane Peacock.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 2008.
254 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-851-4.

Subject Headings:
Holmes, Sherlock (Fictitious character)-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by David Ward.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.

The escapades of Sherlock Holmes have enamored readers since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's originals in the late 1800's. The brilliance of Holmes's deductive powers coupled with the darkness of the 19th century underworld engendered a cult following readership. Shane Peacock's second novel of the young Sherlock is no less exciting or authentic than the first, Eye of the Crow. Chapter one sets the pace, introducing the reader again to the young detective and the familiar scene of a potential murder. This time, however, Peacock delves into the exhilarating world of the aerialists. When Monsieur Mercure falls to his seeming death, it is only Sherlock who notices the bars of the trapeze have been cut. Still grieving his mother's death and the ensuing emotional detachment from his father, Sherlock embraces the case and brings to bear all his blossoming investigative capacities. Once again, Malefactor, the burgeoning crime lord of London, plays a role not only in the solving of the mystery but also in the further development of the young Holmes. The interactions between these two characters are particularly enjoyable. 

On his way home, Sherlock rushes through Trafalgar Square, then speeds north on a wide, busy street past palatial steps that lead to the huge doors of a towering church. As he turns his head to glance at it, someone violently seizes him and pulls him into the mews across the street on the far side of St. Martin's ominous granite workhouse. Good and evil are often side by side in London.

"Master Holmes, I perceive."


The young leader is alone and smiling, his sunken eyes look sharp and mischievous. He clutches a newspaper in his hand, obviously amused at something. His slight Irish accent grows stronger when he's angry or excited. "Have you seen this?" he asks, his tongue darting in and out of his mouth like a reptile's. He is holding up The Illustrated Police News to display its headline: "Murder at the Palace?"

"I know it," answers the boy, trying to recover his equanimity without showing he ever lost it, fixing the disturbed collar on his frock coat.

"Care for a clue?" asks Malefactor pompously.

"I have several."


     With the help of The Sparrow, a young aerialist, and his apothecary friend, Dr. Bell, Sherlock leads Inspector Lestrade to the culprits' lair and to a wild conclusion. Again Peacock has remained true to the original spirit of the Holmes series. Sherlock's pervasive melancholy and his flirtatious relationship with the underworld of London create yet another authentic mystery. There are also some tremendous moments of fun such as when the ancient Dr. Bell teaches a young woman the martial arts using a skeleton in the laboratory of his apothecary as an adversary. The continuing gap between Sherlock's love interest, Irene, adds another significant dimension to an already layered story. Peacock has honored the essence of the original Holmes stories while contributing his own intuitive, exhilarating touches.

     This series would make an excellent resource for Language Arts teachers in grades 5-8, particularly so in the writer's workshop or mystery writing.

Highly Recommended.

David Ward is a children's author and children's literature instructor at the University of British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.