Liese Sherwood-Fabre, The Adventure of the Deceased Scholar (2021)

Author: Liese Sherwood-Fabre

Title: The Adventure of the Deceased Scholar

Format: e-book

Pages: 314

Series: The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes #3

I confess I have a soft spot for almost everything Sherlockian. Or Holmesian? 😉 Obviously, Doyle’s original work is in my book incomparable to anything written later on that topic in tribute/pastiche/inspiration/parody/retelling (oh, retelling, gah!) etc. – but I still quite enjoy a new spin on the unique character of Sherlock Holmes and his unsurpassed powers of deduction. And there’s a LOT to pick from, believe me. Some of them are even endorsed by Doyle’s estate, some become a matter for loud lawsuits, and there are even Sherlockian scholars sacrificing most of the waking hours of their life to Doyle’s creation. I don’t pretend to be a Sherlockian pro, far from it. But I’ve read my share of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, and among them two managed to get reviews on this blog. Gaiman’s and Albuquerque’s A Study in Emerald turned out to be a delightful romp through Lovecraftian-inspired Victorian London, and Lovegrove’s version of the Christmas adventure of Holmes and Watson was warm and cozy and very much in the Holmesian spirit. Sherwood-Fabre offers something slightly different: adventures of a teenage Sherlock Holmes, at 14 still quite impressionable and surrounded by a loving family. 

When I requested The Adventure of the Deceased Scholar from NG I knew this is the third book in a series – but with a character as well known as Sherlock Holmes, reading out of order doesn’t really seem to be an issue. While there are references to prequels, the knowledge of previous events is in no way crucial to understanding or appreciating the plot of this one, as they are unrelated.

In The Adventure of the Deceased Scholar we find Sherlock Holmes, 14, in London with his family for the Easter break. A murder disguised as suicide threatens not only the livelihood and good name of the victim’s family, but also of Mycroft Holmes, blackmailed by the desperate sister of the late lord Surminster. Together with Sherlock, Mycroft, and their formidable mother we traipse through Victorian London: from British Museum to seedy brothels, from opera to the docks, from opulent estates to morgues, we’ll see it all. We’ll even visit Baker street, witness Holmes’s first encounter with laudanum, and learn more about the origins of his love for theater and music, as well as his long-lasting cooperation with street urchins.

And certainly, Sherwood-Fabre’s attention to historical detail is commendable; her London, while still retaining some of the faded glamour of old postcards, is believable and lively enough. Servants crowd bachelor’s entrances and streets, jostling with street urchins and bobbies and carriages of the wealthy, and students use their freedoms with abandon. The strict social conventions and hierarchy of the times are also portrayed with creditable fidelity: all those handkerchiefs, written missives, invitations for tea and dinner seem to leave so little time for any sensible activity, it’s no wonder that older Sherlock was inclined to dispense with social norms.

But what I liked the most about The Adventure of the Deceased Scholar was actually the character of Mrs. Holmes. While I’m ill-disposed to ideas of inventing additional members of the Holmes family, such as a younger sister, I’m quite happy to see a believable female character around: and what makes more sense than depicting Holmes’s mother as a resourceful, compassionate, very intelligent, learned and quite independent woman with well-honed observation skills? I really enjoyed the family dynamics depicted by Sherwood-Fabre here: they are both  in keeping with the social conventions of the times, when the position of the head of the family required the father to be somewhat distant and stern, and appropriately feminist for modern sensibilites, with the mother taking the mantle of a more accesible role-model for her kids.

Holmes himself might be a bit more sensitive and less OCD then what we’re used to, but hey – he’s still quite recognizable as an early version of the famous detective; he certainly has the latter’s unwavering focus on the goal and his fascination with mysteries. It’s interesting to see the character’s growth here; still making mistakes and learning from them, gently guided by mother and scoffed at by brother, Sherlock Holmes is visibly a teenager in his formative years.

All in all, I enjoyed this little foray in Victorian London, and Sherlock Holmes again proved to be an excellent company. Even though the plot is on the predictable side, the fact that I solved the mystery early on didn’t diminish my reading pleasure. So, if you want to check out some early cases of young Sherlock Holmes, Sherwood-Fabre’s offering is a good place to start. I for one enjoyed it more than the more thriller-like Andrew Lane’s version for young adults.

Score: 7.5/10

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and author through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks.

40 thoughts on “Liese Sherwood-Fabre, The Adventure of the Deceased Scholar (2021)

          1. I have chosen not to remember anything from Heinlein’s non-juvenile books. Filth and blasphemy.
            Which says a lot that he chose Mycroft!
            * ultimate sneer! *

            Say, I’m getting pretty good at this ” sneer “ing thing. Might have a promising future…

            Liked by 2 people

  1. I too can’t help myself from being drawn by non-Doyle Sherlock material but thank god my reading speed doesn’t allow me to indulge more than I can handle. The original stuff, which I’ve only read through back in high school and need to reread properly in the near future, has yet to ever be surpassed for me. This one does sound pretty decent although it’s always so tough for me to accept new characters that are “supposed” to be “canon”. One Estate-approved Sherlock story I liked was was Anthony Horowitz gave us (I didn’t read his Moriarty yet though). Great thoughts as always, Ola! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lashaan! 😀

      Yeah, Enola Holmes gets a total NO from me, especially after the movie 😉
      Well, you know, everyone has a mother, even Sherlock Holmes, so I’m actually quite happy with this addition. Definitely more convincing than some others I’ve seen over the years. Horowitz is a good writer, though I’ve read only his own murder mystery, not a Holmes one. I’ll check it out!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahhh… Enola… and they had to go with Millie Bobby Brown too… Oh well! 😛

        It was called The House of Silk. I don’t think I praised it too much but I know I wanted to get through it just so I could try his Moriarty (book #2) since it just sounded like a better book hahahah If less-experienced me had issues with it, I don’t know if today-me would be forgiving hahah

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hmm I’ll consider Horowitz, then 😉 I feel like Doyle was and will remain the best of them all in all things Sherlock – after all, it’s his creation 😉 But it’s nice to be able to read some other Holmes’s adventures from time to time 😉

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my, I remember this movie! In fact, I watched it not so long ago 😉 It seems to me that the director couldn’t decide if he wanted it to be a satire or an earnest movie for young audience, so made a bit of both. The image of young teen Sherlock with a giant pipe in his mouth will stay with me for long 🤣

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, it is! It’s really cool to see how the character is evolving and yet there’s always a core to him that none Sherlock-loving person would ever dare to change or permit others to change 😁

      Like

  2. A young Sherlock Holmes sounds intriguing indeed, and this promised peek into his family life – and what promises to be a formidable, if understated, mother – might prove very interesting. I will have to keep this one on my radar for a change of pace from my usual fare 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The only things I know about Sherlock Holmes come from Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective. There is a guy named Watson, and Holmes has a magnifying glass, and he says “elementary, dear Watson”. Isn’t that right?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I would go for Sherlockian rather Holmesian – easier to pronounce! 😁 I love the original Holmes stories, but besides from a film with Robert Downey jr (didn’t feel to Sherlockian…) I have stayed away from spin-offs and retellings. There is always the fear of being highly disappointed. This one sounds quite good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are some that are deeply disappointing, and I will point out here The Angel of the Crows that left me seething 😉 but many are actually quite respectful and in the style of originals. I guess if you decide to write a story about SH you really need to love the character 😂

      Like

    1. He’s better than Lane’s version, that’s for sure 😉 but I see where you’re coming from – we want more of the beloved original, set in his ways, and not some fledgling 😉
      I guess it’s just like with Hannibal Lecter – the Hopkins version is absolutely wonderful (in a scary way) but the teenage version is just meh, unwittingly spoiling the legend of the suave evil incarnated – sometimes it’s better not to have a past 😂😂😂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t say if I enjoy Sherlock or not, mostly because I know little about him aside that he was a p.i character. I think I remember people depicting him with a pipe and wearing hat…. ? Did I miss the mark big time?
    Anyway, but a 14 year old Sherlockian sounds interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, P.I., pipe and a hat are spot on 😉 He had a friend named Watson and solved impossible cases through the power of observation and deduction 😁
      Thanks for reading, Jina!

      Like

  6. Yay, I’m happy that you found a good ‘un in your files/stacks. 😀
    I’ve not returned to my years-ago Holmes obsession, but I can imagine doing so, at some point, when the urge comes back.
    Angela Misri’s series for children, about a woman who inherits 221B Baker Street, appeals to me, (I heard it was fun!) but I’ve just never gotten around to it yet.
    Have not watched Enola Holmes and have definitely gotten mixed messages about it. Fortunately there are so many good shows to watch that I haven’t felt the need to try.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! 😀
      I do like to keep my Holmes-related reads on back burner: one or two books a year is just a right amount 😉

      I’ll take a closer look at Misri’s series, thanks for the rec! I want to read at least one Cthulhu/Holmes book by Lovegrove, heard good things about them.

      Yup, there are some good shows, so no need to watch Enola, indeed! 😀

      Like

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