Review: Death Cloud by Andrew Lane

April 5, 2011
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Audiobook - Death Cloud by Andrew LaneDeath Cloud
By Andrew Lane; Read by Dan Weyman
6 CDs – Approx. 7 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published: February 2011
ISBN: 9781427211224
Themes: / Mystery / Sherlock Holmes / Bees / Evil Mastermind / YA /

It is the summer of 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. On break from boarding school, he is staying with eccentric strangers—his uncle and aunt—in their vast house in Hampshire. When two local people die from symptoms that resemble the plague, Holmes begins to investigate what really killed them, helped by his new tutor, an American named Amyus Crowe. So begins Sherlock’s true education in detection, as he discovers the dastardly crimes of a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent.

I realize that I’m not the target audience for this book, but I went into it with hopes for some Sherlock Holmes-like detecting. What I found was a fairly typical YA story with lots of chases, a little bit of teenage romantic awkwardness, and the promise of a sequel.

The Sherlock Holmes-ness in the book can be found mainly in discussions between 14 year-old Sherlock and his tutor from America, Amyus Crowe. He tells Sherlock to remember even unimportant things, and to prize logic. Other allusions to his later life come near the end, when he reflects on how his life will never be the same now that he’s brushed with things he needs to put right. He thinks about Laudanum (he was knocked out with the drug earlier in the story). He’d heard of people getting hooked on the stuff, and he “had no desire to go down that route – none at all”. Also, bees play a very important role in the story, as they will late in Sherlock’s fictional life.

I’m no Sherlock Holmes expert. I haven’t read any significant Arthur Conan Doyle for probably 30 years. But this book just doesn’t feel like any Sherlock Holmes story I remember. It would be perfectly at home as a story of James Bond as a teen. Young James could encounter his first evil (and ridiculous) villain with a big evil (but ultimately ridiculous) plan and a long monologue meant to reveal the plan just before failing to kill the hero. I am pleased that some kids will pick this up and go on to pick up some of the famous Holmes stories, but I dunno. This isn’t an introduction to Sherlock Holmes.

Enough with reviewing the book I wanted. The book it is is an entertaining, light listen with some eye-rolling moments. Dan Weyman does a fantastic job with the narration. There are plenty of characters to perform, but standouts are Amyus Crowe and the evil villain, Baron Maupertuis, who is performed with enthusiasm.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

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