Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review - The Future Door (No Place Like Holmes #2)

The Future Door is actually the second book in a series. Normally I would go and read the first book first, but I had this sent to me by Amazon Vine for review so I decided I'd jump right in rather than seeking out the first book. I hadn't read the first book but recognizing that it is aimed at a younger "middle grade" audience I hoped it would either work as a stand alone or give me enough details to catch me up if I needed material from book 1.

The concept sounded fun. The overall series is about a young boy, Griffin Sharpe, who is living with his Uncle Rupert in London…but not just anywhere in London. Rupert lives in apartment 221 A on Baker Street, right next door to Sherlock Holmes. Rupert is a much less successful detective than Holmes but he is very passionate and competitive and hopes to be as famous as Holmes. He has a knack for inventions and he's created a wide assortment of inventions to help him in his sleuthing. The inventions are pretty amazing and frankly should make him more famous than his detective abilities…but that's not what he's after.

Fortunately young Griffin is a much better detective than his uncle. Griffin has the innate hyper-observant abilities we've seen and loved in Sherlock Holmes stories over the years. He is critically aware of his surroundings. He's able to quickly identify nuances and discrepancies that escape the notice of casual observers. In other words, he's Sherlock Holmes in young-boy form.

Apparently in the first book Griffin and Rupert work to solve a mystery involving the Moriarty family. To keep the dynamic balanced, the famous Professor Moriarty also has a young counterpart about Griffin's age. Since I haven't read the first book, I'm not entirely sure of what happened, but what quickly becomes clear is that the Moriartys recognize the skill and persistence of Griffin and his uncle and intend to keep them "out of the way." Furthermore, they've recognized the inventive skills of Rupert and have their eye on one of his inventions in particular. As the title might suggest, "Time" (with a capital "T") plays a factor in this book. Rupert has invented (but not perfected) a Time Machine…and the Moriartys want it.

Because this is a mystery novel, I don't want to give away anything more about the plot. It is aimed at kids but I still found it fun and engaging as an adult. There were still twists and turns to be had that left me wondering what might happen as the story progressed. The author did a good job of handling the paradoxes and intricacies of time travel (which can certainly be problematic) without being either too confusing or too simplistic…either of which was possible. I thought the way the "Future" was presented was interesting and humorous, albeit a little cheesy and tongue in cheek at times.

One thing I found interesting when I received the book is that it was (according to an insert) subcategorized not only into mystery and children's fiction, but also into "religious" fiction. This was definitely not off-putting to me, but it made me curious and so as I read, I kept an eye out for religious elements. As it turned out, I didn't need Holmes-like scrutiny to find them, but I also acknowledge that the religious nature was not terribly overt.

Griffin is the son of a Methodist preacher and as such he speaks and acts like the good son of a preacher might…there are moments when Griffin is in a jam for one reason or another and in a single sentence or two he whispers a brief (but not formal) prayer to God for help. He also has a couple of very short comments on the morality and mortality of characters in the book. Each of these instances were casual and simple and could be glossed over without thinking much of anything about religion. There was only one small scene where religion was explicitly and specifically on display…when in the Future, Griffin finds a Bible and opens to one of his favorite verses of scripture which states that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Griffin comments that any future that still has God can't be all bad. The scene was short and was handled very well. It didn't attempt to preach or rebuke in any way, but it did acknowledge the nature of God and the nature of the world. I felt like it was well done…but any anti-religionists may want to be warned. ;-)

Semi-related to the small religious aspects of the book, I can also say that this book is very well suited for a young audience. Even though it is a mystery (with theft, violence and murder) I dare say the book is "wholesome" and very child friendly. Any actual violence happens "off-page" and is tactfully presented in a way to propel the story and the tension without being problematic for younger readers. The language is also very child appropriate which I appreciated.

Overall I found this book to be a lot of fun. It vaguely reminded me of Encyclopedia Brown or The Three Investigators mysteries that I read back in grade school. The world of Baker Street and London was familiar, yet unique. The mystery and adventure were well paced and entertaining. Now I need to go back and read the first book in the series and keep my eye out for a possible third book. I also need to get my kids to read this one. I'm sure they'll enjoy it.

4 out of 5 stars

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Brian Miller said...

nice.....this sounds really good...loving your reviews are loading me and my boys up...

Julie Daines said...

This book sounds like fun! Thanks for the review. I have a son who might love it.