Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Possession For Kids?

The 100-Year-Old Secret by Tracy Barrett is the first in a series called The Sherlock Files because the two main characters, Xena and Xander Holmes, learn they are descendants of Sherlock Holmes and set to work solving one of his unsolved cases.

I found the Sherlock Holmes connection problematic. Anyone familiar with Sherlock Holmes will doubt he had any descendants because, 1. he was fictional, and 2. in the stories he doesn't come close to having any kind of relationship that would produce offspring. (That includes Irene Adler.) So for the basic premise of The Sherlock Files to work, some kind of alternative history needs to be provided in which Sherlock Holmes is real and did, indeed, produce heirs. Nothing like that appears in the first volume. There are references to some Holmes' stories--a pub is named The Dancing Men, for instance, (The Adventure of the Dancing Men ) and Dr. Watson's young descendant has red hair (The Red-Headed League), but beyond that, I didn't see any what you'd call world building.

Now, an argument could be made that young readers won't be familiar with Sherlock Holmes, anyway, so they won't have any problems with the lack of logic behind the story. But if they aren't familiar with Sherlock Holmes, why does the whole Holmes' business need to be there?

Putting the Holmes' set-up aside, I actually liked the art history mystery in The 100-Year-Old Secret. The kids hunt for a portrait missing for a hundred years. The art talk is interesting. And the minor, nonrecurring characters who provide information about the long-dead artist are far more realistic and able to hold this reader's attention than the members of the Society for the Preservation of Famous Detectives, who I suspect are going to turn up in later adventures. A story about contemporary characters solving a mystery about a historical arty figure--with kids--has real potential, I think.

I picked up The 100-Year-Old Secret because I thought it looked like a mystery for younger readers. Though Amazon describes it as being for 9 to 12 year olds, I think kids on the younger end of that range will appreciate it best.

The second book in the series will be published next May.

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