Black Ice by Andrew Lane

Review by Chris Redmond

Andrew Lane's Young Sherlock Holmes series of books for teenage readers has had some success. This volume, although it can stand alone as both a mystery and a study of what Holmes might have been like in his teen years, is the third in the series, and includes a number of references to events in the previous two books, including apparently some adventures that took place in the United States. Holmes is not, of course, the only continuing character; Mycroft Holmes, who is entirely canonical, has appeared before, as have a couple of friends and mentors who are not canonical at all.

Lane is not the first author to try to imagine a childhood and youth for the great detective, since absolutely none is outlined in the authentic texts. (There are other oddities about his life story and chronology as well, but at least it seems clear that he must have been born at some time, likely in the 1850s, and grown up somewhere, likely in England.) As Lane interprets matters, Holmes's parents are dead and he is growing up among relatives at Holmes Manor in Surrey. He is also being tutored in observation and deduction by a family friend — and drawn into matters of crime and international espionage by his older brother.

The result is a plot that takes the young man first to London and then to Moscow, under cover as the errand boy for a theatrical troupe. The story has enough interest (and, as such things go in Sherlockian novels, enough plausibility) to keep the reader going. Lane's narrative strength, however, is clearly the chase and suspense scenes, as Holmes narrowly escapes one threat after another in Perils-of-Pauline style.

Opinions will vary about whether Lane's Sherlock Holmes is the real Sherlock Holmes. That's not a bad thing, and his extrapolation of the original detective into the teenage detective-to-be is just one entry in what's becoming a crowded field. It seems probable that this one will appeal to the young readers who are its intended audience.