This "first casebook" in the Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars series puts a new twist on the success behind Scotland Yard's star detective. Readers familiar with Sherlock Holmes know that he relied on Dr. Watson, but Mack (Drawing Lessons ) and her husband here reveal the role of the lesser-known Baker Street Irregulars, an "extremely enthusiastic and loyal gang of homeless boys." (Since Watson is the "author" of the detective's stories, the boys believe he's played down their contributions out of jealousy, and, indeed, Watson says of them: "With troops like these, we would have lost India long ago.") Led by the street-smart Wiggins and Ozzie, a scrivener's apprentice, the Irregulars investigate the link between the murders of three circus tightrope walkers (the title Zalindas) and the theft of a valuable book from Buckingham Palace. The introduction of the large cast of characters slows the pace a bit, but the authors vividly evoke the realities of 19th-century London. The Irregulars are a heartbreaking bunch, including Stitch, son of an Irish tailor whose family perished in a fire, and Rohan, whose fisherman father was lost at sea. The plotting involves red herrings and narrow escapes, and though Holmes solves the case, the boys remain at the heart of the action. The concluding "Facts and practicals for the aspiring detective" and Ruth's half-tone illustrations of the famous fellow and this motley young crew add to the elegant feel of the volume. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)[Page 56]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Gr 5-8 When three tightrope walkers fall to their deaths, Sherlock Holmes must investigate. He is aided by a group of street children who help him as well as one another. These ragamuffins, led by the very capable Wiggins, go to the circus to seek out clues while Holmes and Watson pursue other leads. The case involves the theft of a priceless 17th-century book commissioned by Charles I1 and only meant to be seen by the ruling king or queen. Frail Ozzie turns out to be a vital new member of the Irregulars with a razor-sharp memory, and a gypsy girl from the circus proves helpful to solving the murders. Ozzie and Wiggins are memorable characters, and Holmes and Watson are extremely well defined. Black-and-white illustrations seem quite slapdash and do little to enhance the Victorian flavor of the book. Alex Simmons and Bill McKay's The Raven League (Sleuth, 2006), another story about Holmes and a gang of waifs, gives readers a more immediate impression of the realities of Victorian London with its many abused and homeless children, child labor, filth, and class differences. B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Library, Sag Harbor, NY[Page 132]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.