‘The Great Shelby Holmes and the Coldest Case’ by Elizabeth Eulberg: Can Watson and Holmes Solve the Mystery on Ice?

coldest case

“The Great Shelby Holmes and the Coldest Case” is the third book in the clever series by Elizabeth Eulberg about a pint-sized detective named Shelby Holmes and her sidekick, John Watson. Both of the characters’ names, of course, are cute references to the famous duo of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

John Watson loves to write, and when he blogs about their mystery-solving skills, and a high-profile case brings them media fame, that fame also brings a new client to his upstairs neighbor and friend, Shelby. The new client is a Russian coach for figure skaters. Watson expresses his chagrin that when his beloved sports finally meet Shelby’s mystery-solving skills, it’s all about figure skating — a sport he knows nothing about. Jordan, a very talented young figure skater, has been receiving coded messages, and her coach, Tatiana, is sure that’s why her ice skating skills have been suffering.

In fact, when Holmes and Watson go undercover as figure skaters, it’s a pretty pathetic impersonation. Neither can skate at all. But that doesn’t matter in the end because skating has no part in the eventual solution to the mystery. It’s Shelby’s superior intellect, her ability to decode ciphers, and — finally — Watson’s perceptive eyes that all combine to protect Jordan.

As with any mystery worth its salt, there are many suspects, and the danger escalates. But the intrepid young detectives don’t give up. This story, like the others in the series, has many layers. The mystery is the hook that will keep kids reading each book, but the fascinating characters are what make kids want to keep the series.

Shelby, while brilliant, is not an easy friend to have. Like Sherlock, she is often self-centered and brusque. She doesn’t have a lot of empathy, and when she does think of others, or express emotion, it’s all the more notable. Watson is African American which isn’t a big deal in the story, except when he points it out by describing a character as “a tiny white girl.” Another clever touch which is good for humor is that Shelby thrives on sugar — candy, sweets, and cookies, a subtle reference, maybe, to Sherlock’s alleged dependence on cocaine. Watson, on the other hand, has diabetes and must be very careful about what and when he eats.

This book is most enjoyable, and kids will like trying to solve the cipher before Shelby does. The conclusion is believable, the main characters grow (we finally meet Watson’s father and learn more about their relationship), and a good time will be had by all.

While the novel could be read by strong third graders, the subject matter and mysteries will keep readers as old as middle school interested. The fact that Watson is in middle school makes this a great choice for middle school reluctant readers and those who just like a good mystery.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Bloomsbury, the publisher, for review purposes.

2 thoughts on “‘The Great Shelby Holmes and the Coldest Case’ by Elizabeth Eulberg: Can Watson and Holmes Solve the Mystery on Ice?

  1. I liked your Review of this book. I am 66 and since being in Mrs. Hinton’s 4th grade Class, in American Canyon, California at Donaldson Way School and discovered my love of Codes, Ciphers and invisible inks.. I lived in an are where The Zodiac Killer preformed his deadly morbid game of cat and mouse with the area newspapers, The Vallejo Times Herald, Napa Register, the San Francisco Chronicle and The San Francisco Examiner and the Cops in Vallejo, Benicia maybe and the Solano County Sheriffs Office in Fairfield. The Evidence still sits in a safe at the Sheriffs office there. I saw the newspaper as it was delivered to our front lawn. My mother showed me the first article on it ever in our local paper, The Vallejo Times Herald, one morning before School. On the front page was a code with strange symbols on it. There were no word spaces in the code, just lines of non-Romanized text like English uses. I had broken my first cryptogram either in late Elementary School or early Junior high school. There was a book and movie about the case. I was in high school, couldn’t drive yet so took the bus or was driven by car to high school in Napa, 12 miles north by mom. At 16 I had a science research class and discovered how to develop all chemical invisible inks except one and after the invention ov U.V. lights that would be easily done. But I am sure that technology was not readily avalable during World War I when the Germans were using plain old clear water as an invisible ink. With my discovery in the late 1960’s I could replicate the water ink on paper. Taking the rubber stopper flasks of solution that I was working with home for Christmas Break gave me the accidental break I needed in the problem. Water painting the Copper Iodide water solution over invisible ink was useless. My unorganized-ness was the character trait for success! After working with the solution on paper I looked everywhere but couldn’t find the stopper. It was a dangerous solution just in the air. It will give you the mother of all sore throats if not used in a ventilated area as I can attest too. In fact it can kill just breathing in its vapors. I had to read about its dangers from a special book the Chemistry teacher had me read and be sure I understood well before he let me use the strong isotope.

    I knew just letting the vapors leave the flask too long would make me sick. No stopper! Big deal! So I got a 3×5 card and put it over the hole at the top of the flask. That seemed to solve the problem. A week later I took the card off and where the card met the fumes in the Flask was a big purple dot maybe an inch and a half across. In the middle of the dot was a thumb print. It was the vapor that did the work. I tried it on lemon juice invisible ink. The same result. I could see what had been written in the invisible ink. Onion Juice, the same result. I tried water and the same result. I was elated! Well my chemistry teacher thought I had made a new discovery. There hadn’t been but few who knew about this except crime labs and the NSA. It got me an A that Semester.

    I became 17 before my senior year. They say no code is unbreakable, but this one is and has been for 109 years now. It was top secret until the late 1960’s when an unapproved article was published in Scientific American. I read all the current stuff on cryptography in my school library. At 17, I found out about the unbreakable code when I read an article in the magazine. I then knew how the cipher worked and made my own at home but had no one to use it with. Later in life I got 4 ten sided dice and that help me make the random numbers a computer couldn’t do perfectly.

    I have collected about 200 books on Codes, Ciphers, and Invisible inks. The most interesting have stories included with them, but the bibles of these subjects are more useful. Some books talk about cipher/codes but never get into them. Others have stories and real codes or ciphers that are part of the story with their solutions at the end if you have not alrady figured them out. That is my favorite type. I was on a train trip when I discovered a neat story for teens in an independent book shop in San Francisco. I told the book store clerk what I was looking for. She actually knew her books. She showed me the first is the Book Scavenger series by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. I bought it and couldn’t put the book down. I was once a BART Station Agent and a Train Operator. Her descriptions were pretty good for a non employee of ether the train subway I worked on or the other subway entity that runs under the streets of San Francisco. I could have improved on that although Ms. Bertman had a good layman’s working knowledge of the system, station layout and streets of San Francisco. The Book Scavenger, first in the series was a great adventure about a secret cipher that I loved. I haven’t had a chance to read the Unbreakable code, 2nd in the series yet but looks exciting.

    Elwin E. M. Hennis
    code, cipher and invisible ink hobbyist
    Worked in the train cabs of 2 railroads for 41 years and 3 months.
    Worked for a Super Speed Magnetic Levitation Train Company as Project Manager for 26 years.
    mid class, “General Class” American Radio Amateur service, KJ6SGM


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