For some Sherlockians, the gateway drug to the Master wasn’t the actors Basil, Brett, or Benedict, but a mouse named Basil—either in book form or Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective. The Sherlock Bones and Dr. Catson series by Tim Collins could serve the same function for a new generation of young readers.
I caught up this delightful series with the second book, Sherlock Bones and the Curse of the Pharaoh’s Mask, published by UK-based Buster Books. The pharaoh in question is Tutancatmun, who is—like Dr. Jane Catson—a feline. (You can see where this is going.) All the other characters are animals, including (spoiler alert) Moriratty.
There’s a genuine mystery here (who stole the pharaoh’s mask?), and lots of amiable humor (some of it poo-based), but more than: The book contains 25 puzzles that will stretch the young reader’s ability to not only see but observe.
Most of these puzzles require close study of the illustrations, which are part of the charm of the book. (“Study the passengers’ passport photos for two minutes, then turn the page to see how much you can remember.”) My favorite involves process of elimination to match characters with their watches. (“Florence, Walter, and Laila all have numbers on their watches . . . Florence’s watch has a much thinner strap than Walter’s . . . Laila has a pocket watch.”)
Although middle-grade students can read this book by themselves, there is plenty of enjoyable word play and Easter eggs for parents who read it to younger readers and have them tackle the puzzles.