Renee Mihulka – Children's Book Reviews & Writer

Sherlock, Lupin & Me – The Dark Lady (1)

sherlockOVERALL: 4.0 4.0 Stars

Concept:5 Stars
Characters:4 Stars
Plot:4 Stars
Writing:3.5 Stars

 

Irene Adler

Original Text: Alessandro Gatti

Translated into English by Chris Turner

Designer: Veronica Scott

2014
Stone Arch Books
238

 

Description: The idea behind this book is to depict the characters in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous Sherlock Holmes series – Sherlock and Irene Adler as kids. It also includes another fictional character as a child – Arsene Lupin, who is a fictional gentleman thief and master of disguise created by French writer Maurice Leblanc. The book has been translated from its original Italian and is set in the seaside town of Saint-Malo in 1870. The three children band together to solve the mystery of a dead body that washes up on the beach as well as the disappearance of a diamond necklace.

Concept: I was instantly drawn to this book because of its concept. Who wouldn’t want to read about a young Sherlock Holmes told through the eyes of his supposed girlfriend Irene Adler? So, obviously the concept is a real winner. Add to that the addition of Arsene Lupin a fictional gentleman theif and you have the makings of an imaginative, yet familiar story. The layout and design of this book is gorgeous which really adds to the period feel – France in 1870.

Characters: Since these characters are based on pre-existing fictional characters its hard to be impartial about them. For the most part I found they were believable for the time period and I definitely warmed to Irene and Arsene – not so much to Sherlock, but that’s not surprising as Sherlock is never meant to be really liked. The minor characters were also believable and played their part well, although I thought the butler was a bit weak.

Plot: It took me quite a while to get into this book and there was a point that I felt like putting it down and walking away, however I persisted and it turned around for me. Not sure what that means for kids. Most people would have you believe that if they aren’t hooked in the first five seconds, kids will put the book down, but I haven’t found that. Like adults, some stick at books some don’t. The mystery, which is at the core of this book, is well thought out but I have the distinct impression that there is definitely something lost in the translation.

Writing: Again I feel that there is definitely a loss of finesse due to this book being translated. Capturing a writers voice well when translating is a difficult skill and sometimes near impossible. This translation is a very good one, it captures the feel of the period but some of the prose is still clunky which I’m not sure would be the case if I was reading it in its native Italian.

PARENTS: Even though this book has a female protagonist I really believe it is equally suitable for boys and girls – which is rare!! This is because the book focuses on solving a mystery and is written intellectually rather than emotionally. I am always in favour of boys reading books with a female protagonist so parents – encourage them to read this one!! The fact that it is set in the 1870s in Paris also makes it somewhat unique and its a good introduction to the character of Sherlock Holmes. There is a little violence in this book  some punch ups and knife wielding, but nothing too serious.

Things to ask and discuss:

1) Ask when they first discovered who the theif was and who the murder was? Did they know before the three children solved it? What clues were there along the way?

2) There may be some things in this book that your child might ask you about since it is set in 1870, like where are the cars? Or what is Bridge? Encourage them to point out the differences they noticed as well as the things they didn’t really understand.

3) There is some emphasis on Irene’s behaviour as often being inappropriate. Talk about the restrictions and expectations on females during those times.

Come on comment, you know you wanna.

Book Reviews and Writer