James Mycroft (whose surname matches that of Sherlock Holmes’ “much-smarter brother”) is a chain-smoking modern teenager obsessed with forensics in this fresh Aussie reboot of the popular detective franchise.
The first thing debut author Marney does right is withstand the temptation to overexplain the Holmes connection. Narrator Rachel Watts states early on in the story that she and her neighbor Mycroft “are on a strictly last-name basis….He said if Sherlock had Watson, it was only fair that Mycroft should have Watts.” From there, the plot thickens and darkens when Mycroft and Watts discover their homeless friend Dave’s dead body outside the zoo, where Mycroft’s aunt works. As they work to unravel the mystery of Dave’s murder, they struggle to come to terms with their troubled backgrounds while slowly falling for each other. Mycroft was the only survivor of a horrific car accident that killed his parents, while Watts is trying to process the loss of her family’s beloved farm and subsequent move to a busy suburb of Melbourne. All their satisfying, realistic sleuthing builds to a smashing climax that literally places them both in the zoo’s lion den, which finally forces them to admit how much they truly care for each other. Readers will be elated to find out that a sequel is on its way from Down Under.
A smart, contemporary take on a timely classic that is sure to please Sherlock aficionados of all ages. (Mystery. 13 & up)