#BookReview - Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death by Justin Carroll

Ten doors down from the home of a world famous ‘consulting detective’ lives twelve-year-old Hemlock Jones, and her recently arrived housemate and unwitting companion, Edward Whitlow. Hired to ‘demystify’ the mystery of a man's murder by a terrifying angelic spectre, Hemlock and Edward’s investigations will lead them all over Victorian London, uncovering bizarre and deadly foes, figures from Hemlock’s hidden past, and a plot to take over the city...

Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death is the first of the Hemlock Jones Chronicles, a series of detective adventures for children and adults, set in Victorian London.

Having read all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes tales, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of his young neighbour solving crimes of her own and my 9 year old daughter and fellow bibliophile agreed so I read it to her over a number of nights. Just as Holmes has Watson so Hemlock has Edward Whitlow and it is he who narrates this tremendously fun steampunk novel. Hemlock herself is a fabulous character, bearing some of her fellow resident of Baker Street's characteristics; she is fiercely intelligent, single-minded and forthright yet despite her rather overbearing ways she inspires the more staid Eddie to follow her into a dangerous mystery that sees both their lives on the line. Sherlock may be a consulting detective but she has little time for him,
"A detective? Me? Why, I am offended! I am nothing so crass as a" - she spat the word as if there were no higher insult - "detective, following obvious clues to their equally obvious conclusion. I am a solver of puzzles, an unraveller of enigmas, a decipherer of conumdrums. I," her chin rose slightly, almost haughtily, "am a demystifier!"
Although ostensibly a book for children, featuring as it does a pair of twelve year old protagonists Justin Carroll has written a mystery that is really quite dark, the victims have died at the hands of a sadistic murderer who is prepared to kill again and again. I don't want to give anything away here but will say that just as Holmes had Moriarty so Hemlock has her own nemesis, a twisted individual whose evil plans are only matched by his seeming ability to continually evade capture. As Hemlock and Eddie are forced to take on clockwork soldiers and giant spiders what really are his plans, and is there really an Angel of Death on the streets on Victorian London?
With its sophisticated prose and dry wit, Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death evokes the spirit of the Sherlock Holmes stories and is a stylish and enjoyable introduction to what will be a series of books featuring the intrepid pair of youngsters. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it both to children - be aware that some may find it a little too dark - and adults who will appreciate this clearly affectionate nod to the great detective (even if Hemlock wouldn't agree with that description!)

I asked my daughter what she thought about Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death, so she wrote the following paragraph detailing her own thoughts.

I loved this story because it is not just about a boy or girl but about both. Edward Whitlow worked with Hemlock Jones to demystify many mysteries. In this book they uncover murders, by "The Angel Of Death." Hemlock is very clever and she can figure things out and it has a bit of humour and is very interesting. The mystery not only confuses Eddie and Hemlock, but tricks you into thinking too. There is one problem with this book. I didn't want it to end. I begged my mum to read it to me every night. Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death is addictive, once you start reading it's nearly impossible to stop. This exciting adventure awaits you. All you have to do is open the book, and READ!! I recommend this to all people that are not creeped out by dark tales. (Involves death!)

My grateful thanks to the author for sending us a copy to review, Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death is available for the Kindle or as a paperback from Amazon. Justin Carroll is on Twitter as @WriterJustinC.

About the Author

Ever since he stopped wanting to be a dinosaur, Justin Carroll wanted to be a writer. He graduated with a degree in English Literature and Language from King's College, London in 2004 and now, in between writing and moonlighting in marketing for a multinational financial services company, he fritters away his time on all manner of geeky things. Shortlisted for several international short story competitions, Justin was a finalist in the 2010 British Fantasy Awards.