ARC Review: The Great Shelby Holmes

shelby holmes

Release Date: September 6, 2016

Sherlock Holmes goes elementary in Elizabeth Eulberg’s first middle grade novel.

The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg follows sixth grader John Watson, a military brat, who moves to New York City with his mother after his parents split. Watson soon meets Shelby Holmes, an extremely intelligent nine-year-old who loves using her exceptional observation skills to solve cases in the neighborhood. When a family’s prize pooch goes missing, Shelby and Watson are soon on the case and everyone is a suspect.

When I first read the description, I assumed The Great Shelby Holmes would be written from Shelby’s perspective, but the story is actually written from Watson’s perspective. I really appreciate that the author chose to write from Watson’s point of view because he is much more relatable than Shelby. I also really enjoyed that Watson’s background–his military upbringing and diabetes–influenced many aspects of his life and how he treated others, especially Shelby.

Shelby, the mastermind of the story, was also well-characterized, but sometimes came across as too cartoonish for me. Shelby is incredibly smart with a ton of sass and spunk, which made her an extremely entertaining character. I also liked how the author gave another side of Shelby. Since she does have such an exceptional gift, Shelby does not have many friends her own age and as a result is often awkward and slightly rude when interacting with others. That being said, sometimes I felt like Shelby’s character was too overdone. Obviously, she’s intelligent, but often it came across as unbelievable for her age.

As for the case itself, I had several pros and cons. Even though I think dog mysteries are sometimes overdone for younger readers, I think this story sets itself apart from others. I also appreciate the dog case because it gives a nod to one of the most popular Sherlock Holmes stories, The Hound of the Baskervilles.

I had some problems, however, with the repetitiveness throughout the middle of the novel. Every time a little clue appeared, it always ended with people pointing fingers and yelling at each other. The same information was rehashed in several different ways throughout the majority of the novel. This repetitiveness also appeared as Watson and Shelby’s relationship developed. It felt like it took forever for the case to progress, which made the middle of the novel drag.

Another problem some readers may have are the clues themselves. With Sherlock Holmes, readers get some clues, but usually remain stumped until his big reveal at the end where he describes little details that the reader either didn’t pick up on or wouldn’t have any background knowledge. This could be frustrating for some readers, but another aspect frustrated me more. One particular conversation at the end of the book basically gives away the ending, even though about thirty pages remain in the book. As a result, the reveal isn’t as big as it could be.

Overall, I enjoyed The Great Shelby Holmes and I think it could end up making a solid middle grade series. Elizabeth Eulberg’s writing flowed nicely and she crafted fun and interesting main characters. The lag in the middle of the novel and slightly frustrating mystery, however, slightly lowers my rating for this book. I rate The Great Shelby Holmes four out of five stars.

*I received this free eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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