“Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his high powered lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his.” -A Scandal in BohemiaA young Sherlock Holmes returns to his home in the English countryside after living abroad for his health’s sake. He has a history of poor health, but now at age seventeen he’s gained strength in his time on the continent and through his study of fencing. He soon gets wrapped up in his home estate. His eldest brother, Sherrinford marries and the daughter of a tenant named Violet Rushdale catches young Sherlock’s eye. However, he is plagued by a tenuous relationship with his father, the squire. His father doesn’t think he’ll amount to much and intends to send Sherlock to study as an engineer.
His father engages a tutor to come prepare Sherlock for university. A mathematical genius, young Professor Moriarty arrives and soon he and Sherlock are engaged in a battle of wits that will endanger Sherlock and people he cares for.
Darlene Cypser paints a rich landscape for her Holmesian prequel. Well researched and thought out, it gives a possible beginning to Sherlock Holmes’ story. It gives a look at the young man before he became the calculating machine described by Watson and how his interest in solving the unsolvable originated. It’s a quick read with plenty of suspense.
Unlike prequels such as The Young Sherlock Holmes that had to rewrite history to make the story work, Cypser sticks with the story. Though initially, I was skeptical about her inserting of Moriarty into the story, Cypser fills out the image of Moriarty. She also develops a back story between Holmes and Moriarty that emphasizes why Holmes is so bent on Moriarty’s removal from society in “The Final Problem.”