Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Series: The Sherlock Files

I'm always excited to find a new series to add to our shelves. I've found that kids really like a good series and the way that the characters continue to grow. On a recent trip to my local library, I picked up the first in Tracy Barrett's new series, The Sherlock Files. The first installment is call The 100 Year-Old Secret.

The story is based on two main characters, Xena and Xander Holmes, a sister and brother who are distant grandchildren of the famous detective. Tracy Barrett does a great job of developing the two characters, Xena, the older sister likes to make lists and is a little less likely to take a chance than her little brother. She is very good at working puzzles and deductive thinking like her famous relative. Fortunately for the Holmes siblings Xena is an excellent climber. Xander has a photographic memory and is always recalling facts and definitions, which sometimes annoys his older sister. Xander is an athlete and constantly tries to move the duo forward on the mystery, even when they may not quite be ready.

The two find themselves in England for a year while their father is a guest music teacher in London. During the first week the two are playing their favorite game in which they try to identify what passers by are all about based only on appearances. The game has been passed down the generations beginning with their many greats grandfather. In the midst of the game they are handed a note which leads them to a meeting of Holmes and Watson relatives. The children are presented with a book that is a collection of Sherlock Holmes' unsolved cases.

Xena and Xander decide to work on the case of a missing painting that should be part of an exhibition close to their London apartment. This is where the fun begins! Kids like mysteries they can solve like a puzzle, Cam Jansen, Encyclopedia Brown come to mind. Barrett does an excellent job of creating one of those that younger readers, second or third grade, can get into and solve. The clues are there, not completely obvious, but enough that if a reader is paying attention they can solve this mystery.

The tricky part of writing like this is to keep the reader going after they think they have it solved it. Tracey Barrett does that by adding characters the interact with the Holmes kids and keep the other plot interesting. In this book it's a distant relative of Sherlock's sidekick Dr. Watson, Andrew. Andrew is about the age of the Xena and Xander, and very obnoxious! He seems to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder because his famous relative has been overshadowed by Sherlock Holmes. Andrew keeps coming back in the story and creates tension every time so that the reader wants to keep with the story to find out what his deal is!

I'm very excited about this series and plan on adding it to the library this year. It will be good to have another option for that group of mystery readers that have finished all of the Encyclopedia Browns and aren't ready for the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.

Some other reviews at Becky's Book Reviews, and SLJ.

Books 2 is slated for May 2009 and book 3, 2010.


  1. Hi Bill,
    Thanks for your nice words about my new book! Book 2 of the Sherlock Files (The Beast of Blackslope) will be out in spring, 2009, Book 3 (The Case that Time Forgot) will be out in 2010, and Book 4 (still untitled) will be out in 2011.
    I always answer emails from readers. You can reach me at

    Tracy Barrett

  2. Excellent review! I, too, enjoyed the book and will recommend it to my students. It fit right into my summer reading of all things English! Go sonnets!

  3. Oh good! I'm not so good at finding good mysteries for elementary age kids. Thanks for sharing. I'll add it to my growing list!

  4. Oh good! I'm not so good at finding good mysteries for elementary age kids. Thanks for sharing. I'll add it to my growing list!