Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Sherlock Files: The 100 Year Old Secret, by Tracy Barrett

Title:  The Sherlock Files: The 100 Year Old Secret
Author:  Tracy Barrett
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Year:  2008
Pages:  157
Genre:  Mystery
Themes:  Art, Deduction
Age Range:  3rd-5th Grade

Summary:  from Goodreads
Xena and Xander Holmes have just discovered they’re related to Sherlock Holmes and have inherited his unsolved casebook! The siblings set out to solve the cases their famous ancestor couldn’t, starting with the mystery of a prized painting that vanished more than a hundred years ago. Can two smart twenty-first-century kids succeed where Sherlock Holmes could not?
Xena and Xander are two smart kids, but then you'd have to be to solve hundred year old mysteries left behind by Sherlock Holmes.  Barrett does a good job creating a setting that somehow feels British, even though the main characters are American.  There's talk of their flat, and the Tube, and boarding schools...all very UK.  This is the first book in a series that so far has three books, so children who enjoy the first mystery can continue visiting Barrett's fictional  London.

As mysteries go this one is pretty good.  The kids follow clues and use deductive reasoning throughout.  Not all of their ideas pan out, but they show a perseverance that is a good example for real live children who seem increasingly adverse to "try and try again".  They also have something that the "real" Sherlock Holmes did not-21st Century technology. Conveniently, their mother is a reviewer of new gadgets for some online magazine, so they often have prototypes of new technology hanging around the house.  To solve this mystery, they needed a device that would locate metal behind a wall.   In the course of the search they meet Watson's youngest descendant, a painter, a gallery owner, the headmaster of a school, and a girl in a purple hat.  Figuring out how all of these people are related to the painting they are looking for takes brains, which Xena and Xander have in spades.  There isn't exactly a lot of deeper meaning here, but as an example of the mystery genre this book does the job adequately.

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