Of the many middle grade Sherlock Holmes wanna-be books written, Elizabeth Eulberg’s “The Great Shelby Holmes” certainly deserves a place of honor. It’s about a small young genius, Shelby, who loves solving mysteries. The narrator of the story is, of course, John Watson. He’s a young African American eleven-year-old who has just moved with his mother to New York City.
John — or Watson, as Shelby calls him — is used to moving around when his mother, who is a military physician, is transferred from post to post. But she has retired, so they are in New York City to stay. There is also the fact that they made the move without Watson’s father because his parents are getting divorced. Watson doesn’t know if and when he will talk to his father — much less get to see him.
The first young person he meets in the city is Shelby, who lives in the same apartment building as Watson. She is strange, standoff-ish, and incredibly intelligent. He is bored, lonely, and desperate for something to do, so he follows her on her adventure. At first, he is both amazed at how everyone knows and admires Shelby. Then he becomes appalled at how strange she is and how she seems to have no friends.
But as they work together to solve the mystery of the missing dog, he realizes that sometimes things aren’t as they appear to be. While Shelby seems to be self-sufficient, brilliant, and independent, everyone needs a friend. The combination of the theme of friendship (and what makes a good friend) and the compelling mystery (with lots of clues including many red herrings) will hook readers. It’s a great first book in what one hopes will be a series of stories featuring these two engaging main characters. And there is no better sidekick than Shelby’s English bulldog, Sir Arthur. He’s as brilliant a dog as Shelby is a detective.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Bloomsbury, for review purposes.