Eye of the Crow tells the story of Sherlock Holmes’s first case at the age of 13. It was an odd choice for me since, believe it or not, I have never read a book about Sherlock Holmes nor seen a movie about him!
The story is set in London in 1867. Sherlock is from a poor family, his mother having been disinherited after marrying a Jewish man, and his father unable to get a decent job because of his religion. Sherlock is called Judas his schoolmates, who bully him unrelentingly. [Actually if Sherlock’s tormentors had a more sophisticated education, they might have called him Shylock.] In any event, the streets London are much more exciting to Sherlock, and he begins to skip school regularly.
Sherlock loves to practice his skills at observing people as he walks the crowded streets of London, and he loves to follow the tabloids. A story about the murder of a young woman intrigues him, and he goes to the courthouse to see the arrival of the accused, a young Arab boy not yet nineteen. As the Arab boy is brought to the jail, something about Sherlock’s sympathetic eye catches his own, and he says to Sherlock, “I didn’t do it!” From thence onward, Sherlock is determined to find the real killer and get the Arab boy released. After all, he knows how easily prejudice can taint the facts and lead to injustice. Moreover, he himself comes under suspicion because of the communication from the accused specifically directed to Sherlock.
In the course of young Sherlock’s investigations he meets a number of people who will become important to him later on in life. Fans of Sherlock Holmes will recognize the references to characters who become familiar to readers of the adult series. We even get to know his parents a bit, both of whom help Sherlock solve the murder. But those who lack familiarity will not feel lost. The book is sufficient unto itself, and we also get to see how the young, then-inexperienced boy learns how to solve a mysterious crime.
Evaluation: This book has won quite a few awards for young adult fiction. I found it entertaining, although I imagine it would be much more rewarding for followers of the (adult) Sherlock Holmes series. Oddly, the supporting cast seemed better drawn than the main protagonist; I loved Sherlock’s parents, his nemesis/doppelganger The Malefactor, and his intrepid friend Irene much more than Sherlock himself.
Published by Tundra Books, 2007
Note Bene: All of the Sherlock Holmes stories but one are out of copyright and in the public domain. This means you can read them for free on the Internet. A good source to access these stories is The Sherlockian.Net Portal. You can also read the first chapter of Eye of the Crow for free, here.