Stewart, Paul and Riddell, Chris. The Phantom of Blood Alley.
Oddly, not nominated for the Cybils.
Barnaby is recommended to Clarissa Oliphant, a former dueling governess, to investigate the odd behavior of her brother Lawrence. When followed, Lawrence heads to a seedy laboratory in a bad section of London that is frequented by all manner of dubious characters, many of whom dabble in the new art of photography, which uses a host of toxic chemicals. Thinking that the chemicals are degrading her brother's mental facilities, Ms. Oliphant confronts her brother, but shortly after this, he is murdered and she becomes the main suspect, since the weapon in question was her prized dueling sword. Barnaby then investigates Lawrence's contacts... and each one of them is also brutally murdered. What nefarious dealings are occurring, and how can Barnaby stay safe?
Strengths: This entire series (Curse of the Night Wolf, Return of the Emerald Skull, and Legion of the Dead) is packed full of action, creepy monsters, and an accessible Victorian setting. Barnaby is a fun character who manages to survive and prosper on his own. Fabulous drawings. The brief historical information about photography is presented in an engaging way. There's a mystery unit going on in the 8th grade, and since the books can be read independently, I think I will just get them ALL checked out.
Weaknesses: The skateboarding with a piano lid on pram wheels seemed odd and forced. I'm still not entirely sure the "dueling governess" concept isn't real!