Young Sherlock Holmes: Red Leech is the second book in Andrew Lane's series about the teenage Sherlock Holmes aimed at young adults.
While I haven't yet read the first book in the series (Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud) - I'll definitely be picking up a copy on the strength of this pacy action-packed thriller.
It's satisfying on other levels too - for Andrew has clearly given Sherlock a lot of thought and extrapolated from references in Conan Doyle's work to flesh out what Holmes was like as a young man.
As a result - you're treated to a range of thoughtful asides and insights by Holmes throughout the book covering subjects as diverse as ant ecology, code breaking, tattoos and Plato. It never quite tips over into didacticism though. Mr Lane has really captured the intellectual curiosity of a smart teenager's mind as well as provided a plausible development path for Sherlock Holmes as an adult.
And given Sherlock's attitude to the fairer sex in later years it's going to be interesting to see how his relationship with one of the main characters plays out in future books. I suspect it is not going to end happily.
There's other darkness here too. The source of Holmes' later fascination with drugs is chillingly hinted at and this together with a varied population of creepy characters and creatures means there's plenty to spook readers of all ages.
Plotwise the emphasis is on action and adventure rather than detection - but given the target audience I think that's to be expected. It's pretty much a straight chase across Britain to the US to catch up with the bad 'un and rescue a friend. I liked the strong American flavour to the story and suprisingly the blurb makes little of this so I'll avoid spoiling it for you.
Sadly the leech really only tops and tails the book appearancewise but it's certainly memorable when it does slither onto the page.
Also worth mentioning is the excellent attention to period detail - the journey by steamer across the Atlantic being a particular standout as well as the nods to early aviation. This extends to the character's responses to situations too - Sherlock is only able to describe rather than put names to some of the creatures which make an appearance as he has never come across them before. It gives the book real authenticity.
It's not without a few odd glimpses of modernity - I wondered if you'd really expect a Victorian teenager to joke about expanding product ranges? But it's a joke that works well enough in context though.
Completing the book is an afterword where the author reveals something of his thought process and the sources he researched. It's a useful tool for the curious reader who wants to explore the background to the book further.
In short - an exciting involving tale that's also a convincing addition to young Sherlock Holmes' journey to adulthood.
The paperback is out now:
Thank you to Macmillan for supplying a review copy of Young Sherlock Holmes: Red Leech.