Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Eye of the Crow by Shane PeacockBuy from Amazon.com

Eye of the Crow by
A Boy Sherlock Holmes Mystery

Tundra Books (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-88776-850-4 (0887768504)
ISBN-13: 978-0-88776-850-7 (9780887768507)
Publication Date: September 2007
List Price: $19.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Sherlock Holmes, just thirteen, is a misfit. His highborn mother is the daughter of an aristocratic family, his father a poor Jew. Their marriage flouts tradition and makes them social pariahs in the London of the 1860s; and their son, Sherlock, bears the burden of their rebellion. Friendless, bullied at school, he belongs nowhere and has only his wits to help him make his way.

But what wits they are! His keen powers of observation are already apparent, though he is still a boy. He loves to amuse himself by constructing histories from the smallest detail for everyone he meets. Partly for fun, he focuses his attention on a sensational murder to see if he can solve it. But his game turns deadly serious when he finds himself the accused — and in London, they hang boys of thirteen.

Review: Worldwide, 1867 was a year of memorable events. It was the year, for instance, when the U.S. purchased Alaska from the Russians and Canada became a Dominion. It was the year the Fenians rose up in Ireland, and the first ship navigated the Suez Canal. Charles Dickens gave the first of his public readings in America in 1867, and Karl Marx published his first volume of Das Kapital in Europe. John Galsworthy was born. Charles Baudelaire died. And according to multiple award-winning author, Shane Peacock, 1867 is the memorable year in his magnificent novel, Eye of the Crow, when his fictionalized 13-year-old Sherlock Holmes solves his first London murder with only the cawing of crows and a blood splattered glass eyeball initialled “L.E.” to guide him. Earlier this year, Peacock’s book won the 2008 for Best Juvenile crime novel. (See also a related post on .) It’s a must-read story about the teenage years of the British detective many believe to be the best ever in the business.

For dedicated Sherlockians, even young ones, Peacock’s novel is a fascinating depiction of Holmes’ coming of age with facts, fiction and personas taken from the mythology surrounding the Baker Street sleuth and cleverly and at times humorously woven into the story. Knowledgeable readers will recognize the references to Sherlock’s Sherrinford family roots, an older brother and a deceased younger sister. They will appreciate his use of a magnifying glass, his use of disguises and his retentive memory, his connection to Irene, her father, Andrew (not Arthur) C. Doyle, and their dog, John Stuart Mill, to the Irregulars, to the crippled newspaper vendor, Dupin, and to Inspector Lestrade and his teen-aged son, “Lestrade the second.” He’s about the same age as Sherlock, but ”the spitting image of Lestrade, except for the moustache.” The icons and landmarks of London are embedded in the story too. Sherlock cruises around Trafalgar Square, reads the Illustrated Police News, sights Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, and Disraeli, "the greatest politician in the land,” Anna Swann, "the Giantess with her head high above the crowd,” and Blondin, "the amazing high-rope star.” As well, “He`s seen the black-faced chimney-sweeps, the deformed beggars, and the pickpockets of the streets.” Holmes’ long time fans will be captivated by Peacock’s use of these familiar details, and new readers will be entranced by their introduction.

A first-rate thriller, Eye of the Crow, bubbles with mystery and suspense and bursts wide open with a gut-walloping surprise in the death of an individual Sherlock loves. But before that fateful event besets him, he embarks on a quest to expose the details of the knifing death of a young woman in a Whitechapel back alley, witnessed as far as he knows by only a pack of scavenging crows. Using his powers as “an observing machine” and the trademark reasoning that later distinguishes his adult career, he deciphers what the crows tell him in their unique way, finds and discards clues about a wrongfully imprisoned Arabian apprentice butcher, enlists the most unlikely of individuals to assist him, eludes the police and would-be anti-Semitic assassins, and adopts the most reasonable of disguises to allow him to gain entry to the houses of the rich in the city’s Mayfair district where he eventually discovers the final clue the crows were leading him to and to the perpetrator who owns it. Told with a remarkable mix of the styles of Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle and Shane Peacock, the novel bulges with memorable images such as that of the “rake thin little lad with ears like the handles on a teacup,” or that of “a ghostly parade of grotesque creatures, frail as skeletons, ragged as goats,” or that of Sydenham’s Crystal Palace which the young Sherlock sees as “either the biggest glass cathedral the world has ever known, or a greenhouse made for giants.” Touted as Sherlock’s 1st case, Eye of the Crow has already spawned a second riveting one in (also recently reviewed on .) Hopefully there are even more stories to come with the young man who vows he “will spend every waking hour seeking justice, as villainous in his search as any criminal.”

Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham ([email protected]) for contributing his review of Eye of the Crow.

Review Copyright © 2008 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

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