“There are a lot of Sherlock Holmes books written for kids. This really excellent volume does it in a way that hasn’t been done before.
Many of the Holmes stories for children feature numerous variations of the Great Detective’s legendary assistants, The Baker Street Irregulars. These include: The fine MacDougall Twins stories by Derrick and Brian Belanger, “The Baker Street Boys” adventures – related both in books and TV episodes – by Anthony Read and Brian Ball; “The Raven League” stories by Alex Simmons; the Robert Newman books, the Tim Piggott-Smith trilogy, the Tracy Mack books, and various graphic novels, among many others. Other books for children feature Sherlock Holmes himself as the main character when he is not yet quite grown, and still learning his craft. Included in these are the truly excellent “Young Sherlock Holmes” series by Andrew Lane, and “The Boy Sherlock Holmes” series by Shane Peacock, (about which I have some serious reservations.) There are a few times that girls who assist the Great Detective are featured, such as “The Little Girl and Mister Holmes” by Richard L. Kellogg, the “Enola Holmes” stories by Nancy Springer, (although I personally think that those are actually about Holmes’s cousin instead of his sister, since Holmes didn’t have a sister,) and the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King. (The Mary Russell books are not actually for children, but the series starts when Mary Russell is still a child when she first meets Holmes, and continues through a number of other books wherein she has delusions that she ends ups married to the much-older Holmes, who was sixty when they meet, while she is still a young teenager.)
In Elizabeth Varadan’s “Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls”, new ground is explored. Imogene isn’t an Irregular, although she meets one along the way, and the Holmes that she encounters isn’t another child – he’s a grown man, although one is not sure how old he is while reading this, as the year of this tale isn’t specified. What makes this story different from so many others is that, as it’s told from Imogene’s perspective, it takes place entirely within the confines of a normal and well-ordered girl’s life in the late Victorian era.
Imogene hasn’t been orphaned or left to live on the street. She hasn’t been kidnapped or lost, making her way through a terrifying and dark London and relying on the kindness of Irregulars to awaken her street-smarts. Her parents haven’t come to ruin, turning her out of everything that she’s known. She’s a normal girl of her times, spending her days in the company of her governess, whom she doesn’t much like, and the back-stairs servants who are sometimes more of a family to her than her own busy parents. When Imogene’s mother’s pearls vanish, Holmes and Watson are called in to find them. Imogene begins to look for clues in order to help, and her specific knowledge of the regular workings of the household and the incidents that contradict what is normal aid her in spotting the clues needed to assist Our Heroes toward the solution of the case.
I really enjoyed this book, and shouldn’t have taken so long to get around to reading it. I’ve read and collected literally thousands of traditional Holmes pastiches in the last forty years, since I was a ten-year old, the same age as Imogene in this story, and this adventure can stand proudly with all the others that I’ve read and enjoyed. Although written for children, this doesn’t necessarily feel or look like a children’s book. It’s a really handsomely produced volume, and my only advice for the next book in the series – and I hope it is a series – would be to put Holmes’s name somewhere in the title so that people that might not know otherwise will realize that he’s there.”
Reviewed by David Marcum
Imogene and The Case of The Missing Pearls is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine, Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).