Received from NetGalley for review.
I have to admit something before I start this review: I don’t really know anything about Sherlock Holmes. My exposure is limited to the shocking realisation that I absolutely love Jude Law as Watson and the (perhaps even more shocking) realisation that I just don’t understand the big deal with Benedict Cumberbatch. Please don’t shoot me. So, keep that in mind if you’re reading this – I don’t know much about the legendary character that is Sherlock Holmes, and I know even less about Irene Adler; I don’t even know if there is an Arsene Lupin in the original stories.
Having said that, The Dark Lady, about a young Holmes, Adler and Lupin is absolutely fantastic. It tells the story of a summer in France, from Irene Adler’s point of view, where she first meets Holmes and Lupin, and the discovery of a dead body that leads to a mystery none of them were expecting. The storyline and characters are wonderfully crafted and I was thoroughly swept up in the mystery of the dead man.
Irene was a brilliant character to have narrating the story, she is young but independent and perceptive, and you better believe that she wasn’t going to let Holmes and Lupin have all the fun without her; Irene proves that girls can be just as smart, just as cunning and just as much fun as boys, as her father says ‘there’s no stopping you, is there?’. She was a refreshing and realistic narrative voice, a young girl on the cusp of something bigger and stranger but still very much a free spirited child. Sherlock was exactly as I imagined he would be; aloof, irritable and incredibly clever, but completely lovable with it. Lupin, for me, was the highlight of The Dark Lady, he was endlessly fascinating and just the kind of person I would want to know, a grinning and dashing, albeit slightly wild, rogue, someone you can imagine hanging upside down from a tree or swinging through your high bedroom window just for the fun of it.
As far as a childhood detective story goes, I think I would be hard pushed to find one better than this, it has everything a child (or teenager, or adult, hell I enjoyed it and I know a lot of people a lot older who would as well) could want from a fun, thrilling adventure. It manages to be simple without being patronising, with a plot that is just complex enough to be interesting and a mystery that is sustained until the end; I really have no complaints about this story and I love the little teasers about the grown up Irene, Sherlock and Lupin that were dotted throughout the story. The Dark Lady is an all-round excellent novel and I thoroughly recommend it, for young and old alike.
Read: February 24th 2014