Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Elementary! The Sherlock Files: The 100-Year-Old Secret by Tracy Barrett

My dears, the paper read. My very, very dears. I speak for the whole Society for the Preservation of Famous Detectives (SPFD) when I say that we are thrilled beyond words to welcome you to England, the home of your ancestors.

Go to the Dancing Men (if you're hungry, they make an excellent ploughman's lunch) and ask for a saucer of milk for your snake.* Then all will be revealed.

"The ink's fading," Xander exclaimed. Zena read the last few words hurriedly.

Please do not delay. We long to make you welcome. Time, as your illustrious ancestor used to say, is of the essence.

Although Xena and Xander Holmes had no idea that they were descendants of the great detective, Sherlock Holmes, the members of the SPFD--Mary Watson and the other descendants of Dr. Watson and, in a sly bit of literary allusion, Leroy Brown (Encyclopedia Brown to the cognoscenti)--soon fill them in on the family connection. In fact, Leroy Brown entrusts them with Sherlock Holmes' casebook of unsolved investigations, and Xena and Xander are soon off on their first case--the whereabouts of a painting, Girl in a Purple Hat, lost for over 100 years.

Working from a noted copy of the artwork and the cryptic notes in Sherlock's casebook, the two Holmesians begin their investigation in the hamlet outside London where the reclusive artist Nigel Batheson lived and painted only the members of his own family. Xena and Xander soon hit a dead end with their investigations: the artist's home had long ago burned, his only living relative can add little to the case except snippets of family lore about Batheson's three sons and a certainty that the artist had no daughters or neighbor girls who might have posed for the portrait.

Then Xander has a serendipitous breakthrough when Xena accidentally drops her wallet photo of him, girlishly costumed as a sunflower in a preschool play. Xander and Xena realize that the model for the illusive portrait must have been Batheson's youngest son, Robert, wearing a curly wig and a bit of a sulky look as he posed as a girl for his father's painting. Xander realizes that Robert would have feared being teased about his portrayal as a curly-haired girl and deduces that he must have hidden the famous painting in his boarding school dormitory room. Soon the intrepid sleuths are off to try to steal into the old dorm at the Worthington School for Boys in hopes of finding the illustrious portrait concealed there for a hundred years.

Tracy Barrett's The 100-Year-Old Secret (The Sherlock Files) is a real page-turner of a mystery, rich in setting and detail, well-plotted and full of foreshadowing which enable the reader to use the clues to solve the case right along with young detectives Xena and Xander Holmes. This is a series which has great promise for future installments for the mystery fan.

*The saucer of milk for a snake appears as a prominent clue in Sherlock Holmes' case of "The Speckled Band."



  • I read this book as a read aloud to one of my third grade classes this year. It is a fun read.

    By Blogger Kyle, at 7:55 AM  

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