The year is 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. His life is that of a perfectly ordinary army officer’s son: boarding school, good manners, a classical education – the backbone of the British Empire. But all that is about to change. With his father suddenly posted to India, and his mother mysteriously ‘unwell’, Sherlock is sent to stay with his eccentric uncle and aunt in their vast house in Hampshire. So begins a summer that leads Sherlock to uncover his first murder, a kidnap, corruption and a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent. (Summary courtesy of http://www.youngsherlock.com/books/death-cloud-book/)
I've never read any of the Sherlock Holmes books in my life (I know, I know, I'm a horrible excuse for a human being). And my reference when someone says Sherlock Holmes is the 2009 movie (to which I hope they're making a sequel). But I'm happy to say that this was a good introduction to the character. So much so, that I have an inclination to go and pick up the originals and the varied spin-offs done by other authors.
In this book, Sherlock isn't yet the detective mastermind we all know him to be (thank you, Robert Downey Jr.). He is a young boy just released for summer break from an all boys school. His brother arrives to tell him that he will not be coming home to London with him, but will be staying with his estranged uncle, aunt, and their evil house keeper (all though his brother doesn't come out and say as much, Sherlock is able to deduce that much on his own the moment he steps foot in their house).
While bored out of his mind, Sherlock befriends a street urchin named Matty (Jude Law a.k.a Watson??? Like I said, I'm clueless here folks, and the movie is my reference on which I base all things, including the meaning of life--which, if you're curious--is getting a jar full of flies to fly together in a counter-clockwise fashion).
Matty tells Sherlock of a 'death cloud' he saw and the dead man that turned up as a seeming result. His brother hires an American tutor for the summer. I deduce that this is where Sherlock learns all of his mad skills.
As nosey as he is, Sherlock goes gallivanting on private property of a mysterious albino Barron who he thinks is a part of this entire 'death cloud' business. Trapped in a blazing barn and almost murdered (I still cringe when I remember Lane showing us that scene), Sherlock escapes and goes back to his uncle's house for his lesson with the American. There they find a dead man on his uncle's property. Sherlock is convinced that the two deaths are connected and somehow the Barron (Arch Nemesis Moriarty??) is a part of it all.
Together, Sherlock, Matty, the American, and his attractive daughter, Virginia (Rachel McAdams?) try and solve the mystery. And that's all I'm gonna say about the plot.
Lane did a great job of interweaving seemingly unrelated events into one conspiracy for Sherlock to discover. He also did a great job of letting the reader follow Sherlock's brain waves in figuring out the mystery and the conspiracy happening around him, without the notion that my hand was being held through the process. I can see where this will be set up for many more books to come as Lane did a very good job of tying up lose ends, but leaving enough mystery for the next book (which I am going to ask for an ARC of).
Lane also did a superb job of setting up the world in which the story takes place, giving us the sights, sounds, smells and ambiance of 1868 Hampshire.
I strongly recommend picking up this book and reading it for yourself. It's interesting and an easy read, and while it took me a little while to get into it (although, I was rather busy at the time), it was well worth it.