Wednesday 9 November 2011

Review: The Baker Street Irregulars in The Adventure of the Missing Detective by Tony Lee and Dan Boultwood

With Sherlock Holmes missing, and the fair city of London ravaged by crime, the Baker Street Irregulars move into 221B Baker Street. When the Lord Mayor's daughter goes missing and they agree to help Eliza Mayhew find her grandfather, the Irregulars embark on their first case - and quickly discover that they are up against a sinister villain...

Back at the beginning of October I had the pleasure of meeting someone I have followed on Twitter for some time, writer Tony Lee, at another author's book launch in London. If you don't recognise the name then shame on you: Tony is a new York Times best selling writer, and has written for most of the big name comic publishers in the US and UK. He is also something of an expert at adapting other author's work for the graphic novel format, examples that immediately spring to mind including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the first in Anthony Hororwitz's Power of Five books, Raven's Gate. More exciting than anything for me though, he is currently working on a comic version of one of my all time favourite 80s TV shows - MacGyver.

During our conversation, we briefly touched on what was at that point the forthcoming release of Anthony Horowitz's new Sherlock Holmes novel, The House of Silk. During that conversation we touched on Tony's own Sherlock Holmes related work, a series of four graphic novels for Franklin Watts' Edge, an imprint that specialises in books for reluctant readers. Tony's series does not focus on the activities of the great sleuth himself, but instead it follows  the adventures of the infamous Baker Street Irregulars. For those of you who are not au fait with some of the plot details of the original Holmes stories, the Irregulars were a bunch of street urchins who Holmes occasionally employed to help him out.

The books, with illustrations by long-time Tony Lee collaborator Dan Boultwood, had been idling on my Amazon wishlist ever since I had first read about them here on the Geek Syndicate website, so on the way home on the train after the launch I used an app on my phone to treat myself to the first in this series, The Adventure of the Missing Detective. The story kicks off shortly after the events of the Sherlock Holmes short story, The Final Problem. Holmes is presumed dead, following his fight with Professor Moriarty, both seeming to have fallen to their death's at the Reichenbach Falls. There seems like there is nobody to take his place, neither Doctor Watson or Inspector Lestrade capable of filling those huge shoes. Nobody, that is, until Wiggins and his team of Irregulars step forward as volunteers, convinced that the great man isn't dead, and determined to carry on with his work in his absence. However, before they get a chance to investigate Holmes' disappearance, they are thrown headfirst into a case of their own.

At 46 pages, the uninitiated might assume that there is little meat to Tony Lake's story. They would, however, be sorely wrong. Dan Boultwood's illustrations are beautifully rendered, and perfectly portray the grimy atmosphere of the period, but I found myself so engrossed in following the words of Lee's story that I had to go back through them again once I had finished the book, to savour each panel one by one. I agree, 46 pages does not seem a great deal when the thin volume is placed next to some of the thick hardcover graphic novels that are published these days, but look instead towards the Asterix books. These are stories rich with plot and detailed graphics, and yet most of these only weight in at 48 pages, just showing that a book should not be judged by its thickness.

We have had a handful of Edge graphic novel adaptations of classic horror books (Frankenstein, Dracula, etc) on the school library shelves for some time and they ahve always been popular with the reluctant reader boys. I hope that these will soon be joined by the four Baker Street Irregulars books, whilst I will be digging into my pockets to complete by own personal collection - if the rest are as good as this first book then they are too good to miss.

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