Thursday, January 07, 2010

Besting the Beast: The Beast of Blackslope (The Sherlock Files) by Tracy Barrett

"It would be so cool to solve another mystery," Xander said. "Not much chance of that on vacation though. Do you think--"

Ooo--ooo-OOOOOOO! They both froze as the howl drifted down from the forest. It started long and low, rose to a higher pitch, then dropped again before dying out.

"No way that was a siren!" Xena said. "Let's find out what it was!" She leaped up and ran in the direction of the eerie sound. When Xander didn't answer, she glanced over her shoulder.

Xander had disappeared.

Spending a year in England, brother and sister Xander and Xena Holmes are delighted to discover that they were direct descendants of Sherlock Holmes, and when they come into possession of his casebook of unsolved mysteries, they resolve to solve all of them during their stay. When the residents of the scenic village of Blackslope seem disturbed by a series of events, including a mysterious howling at dusk, the kids are hooked when they discover in his notes that Sherlock, too, had come to Blackslope but was unable to locate the Beast blamed for the disappearance of at least one resident.

Keeping their secret Sherlock files to themselves, the young sleuths put their keen powers of observation to work. Clues appear: large, four-toed footprints in the woods, tufts of long, dark hair, and an obviously terror-stricken cook at their bed and breakfast all seem to jibe with Holmes' original observations, and as their parents attend a pre-sale antique exhibition at the local manor, Xena and Xander get to investigate some of the outbuildings shown in diagrams in their great-great-grandfather's notes. Then the two meet up with a film school crew in the midst of shooting a "mockumentary" about the fabled Beast, complete with costumed actors and faux footprints of their own.

Suspects emerge, from the crotchety stablemaster who chases them away from the barn, the grandson of the anxious cook whose "Beast Walk" brings in tourist money for his hoped-for trip to Australia, the enigmatic grandson of the manor owner who seemed determined to forestall the sale of his ancestral home, and the undergraduate film makers anxious to promote interest in their project.

Real and false clues abound, as the young Holmesians work their way through this case in the rational style of their legendary ancestor. As in the first book in this series, The 100-Year-Old Secret (The Sherlock Files), author Tracy Barrett opens her latest, The Beast of Blackslope (The Sherlock Files)(Henry Holt, 2009), with attention-grabbing action and moves swiftly from catchy clues to slightly scary adventures and into a satisfying conclusion by the young Holmesian sleuths. This series, offering inviting English settings and plenty of atmosphere, promises to be a good one to add to the clan of youthful Sherlocks in the mystery and detective story genre.

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  • I love this series. I read the 100-Year-Old Secret last year as a read aloud and they loved it. It was fun to talk about London and mysteries.

    By Blogger Kyle, at 8:03 AM  

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