Pearson, Ridley. The Initiation (Lock and Key)
September 20th 2016 by HarperCollins
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central
Moria and James Moriarty live in Boston, in a mansion on Beacon Hill. Their mother is gone, and their father is an elusive character, so when James is attacked in his bedroom, the siblings don't quite trust that the event is an "initiation" for Baskerville Academy. Since their father claims to have to travel, he enrolls Moria in the school as well, so she is at hand to observe everything her brother does and to report on it. James' roommate is none other than Sherlock Holmes, a rather bombastic character who makes a big show of telling James everything about himself. When the school has the Moriarty family Bible stolen, the administration is quite upset, since the family founded the school. James and Sherlock, with Moria's help, set out to investigate, and find themselves being involved in a bigger mystery than they could have imagined. Tensions run high, and the roommates often don't get involved. Moria has some information that James doesn't have, so when their father is killed when he falls off a step ladder, she is suspicious and alerts James and Sherlock that they should be very careful when investigating.
Like Andrew Lane's Death Cloud, this portrays a young man who already has his investigative technique down, but doesn't have that many cases under his belt. Unlike the Lane series, Sherlock is a rather unpleasant character. Moriarty is the focus here, and his sister's observations help us to understand why he is motivated to later become a career criminal.
Boarding school stories are always popular, and Baskerville Academy is rather fun. It is a bit odd that it is set in the US, but this story does not take place in the 1800s-- it has been firmly resettled into modern times, although it took me a while to realize that! While there is some discussion of Sherlock's family, there's no indication that the characters are descendants of Arthur Conan Doyle's characters. They are the characters from those stories, but brought into the modern day. This is a bold and interesting move on Pearson's part, and adds a much needed twist to characters that have been written about quite a bit.
While it is sometimes confusing to have the story narrated by Moria, this also gives a dash of novelty, and also gives us some distance from James, who does turn out to be a horrible unlikable character in the Holmes canon.
Readers who have read Doyle and the plethora of Holmes stories will need to pick this up, but it is also a good way to introduce new readers to a venerable character and his amazing powers of deduction.
I don't know if I will buy this one-- I vastly prefer the Lane series, and this one was a bit long and confusing. There were a lot of details that slowed down the story, and I often forgot that Moria was investigating. I was also rather put off by the name "Moria"-- I kept thinking of Tolkien or misreading it as Moira. If you've ever read a book and had to replace a name like "Melchiades" with "Mike" so you didn't stumble over it every time you hit it, you'll understand the frustration. Or maybe not.