Review: A 14-year-old Sherlock Holmes travels from England to the United States after his friend is kidnapped as part of a plot to ensure that a madman's scheme to overthrow a sovereign nation goes through in Rebel Fire, the second mystery in this series by Andrew Lane.
It is 1868 and American Amyus Crowe is visiting Holmes Manor in the English countryside. He's there to meet with Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's older brother, about a matter of international importance. More specifically, "to hunt down Southern sympathizers from the War Between the States, who had a price on their heads." Sherlock inadvertently — maybe not so inadvertently — overhears their discussion and the possibility that John Wilkes Booth, the man accused of assassinating President Abraham Lincoln had, in fact, escaped and was at that very moment in England. Sherlock meets up with his friend Matty Arnatt, and together they devise a plan to case the house where Booth is thought to be living. Though they aren't caught, the four men living there see the two boys, later kidnapping Matty and heading for Southampton to sail to America. As Sherlock has seen their faces, he makes a persuasive argument to Amyus and Mycroft that he should be allowed to follow them … and he does, only to face more danger than he could have ever imagined.
Rebel Fire is an exciting adventure, written much more in the style of "The Hardy Boys" than in Doyle's original stories featuring the famed consulting detective. There are many allusions to the canon that add to the appeal here, especially for fans of the series, which include the youthful Holmes's ability to box, the reason behind his fondness for the violin, and more. Mycroft is not only Sherlock's brother, but also his mentor. When Sherlock is caught eavesdropping, he fears Mycroft will be angry. "What would have made your brother angry," Amyus Crowe said genially, "is if you had been careless enough to let the sun cast your shadow across the balcony in front of the windows." "That," Mycroft agreed, "would have demonstrated a regrettable lack of knowledge of simple geometry, and also an inability to predict the unintended results of your own actions." Later, Mycroft tells Sherlock, "When you grow up I, I suspect you will carve a path for yourself in the world that nobody else has ever carved. I can foresee a time when I will be coming to you for help and advice, not the other way around." Indeed.
In the course of his travels, Sherlock seems to stumble from one dangerous albeit thrilling situation to another, most of which are life-threatening. He uses deductive reasoning and his ingenuity to get out of all of them, but sometimes — and somewhat incongruously — at the cost of someone else's life. On three separate occasions, men are killed as a direct result of his actions, one in a particularly gruesome manner. It's not particularly inappropriate for the intended reading audience of this book, but it seems rather unnecessary. Still, there is little doubt that readers will be taken with this teenaged Sherlock Holmes, and will look forward to his next adventure.
A Lexile measure of 920L has been assigned to this book. The publisher lists it as suitable for readers aged 12 and older. It was originally published in the UK in 2011 as Red Leech, a reference to one of the characters in the book; the US title is much better and contextually more appropriate.
Acknowledgment: Farrar, Straus and Giroux provided an eARC of Rebel Fire for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Rebel Fire: England, New York City, Virginia
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Rebel Fire by Andrew Lane — A Young Sherlock Holmes Adventure
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: April 2012
List Price: $16.99