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Problem — SOLVED!

By G.S. Williams, author of No Man An Island

Oct 27, 2012: So, here I am again, reviewing "Sheryl Holmes." I’m going to set aside the more adult-themed "221B Baker Street" version that originally existed for a second, and talk about the new "After-School Detectives" version that E.H. Lau decided to try out after my original review of the original story.

I weirdly love it!

Sheryl is this overly enthusiastic girl who is totally oblivious to common sense, social etiquette and the responsibilities of real life. For her, the world is full of possibilities—mysteries or aliens could be around any corner. She has grown up reading Sherlock Holmes and their similarity in names inspires her to start an after-school detective club with her friend James, who she nicknames "Watson" despite his protests.

It’s extremely funny that, before he really agrees to be in her "club," Sheryl walks to the front of her classroom and announces to EVERYONE that they are open for business and James should be called "Watson" from now on. Everyone basically ignores her, including the teacher, making me think Sheryl has enthusiastic plans all the time, and no one really pays attention any more.

Of course, when a classmates backpack goes missing, suddenly Sheryl’s ignored club becomes useful to someone. She immediately leaps to the conclusion that it’s been stolen (because that would be a better mystery) and reasonable James suggests that maybe they should just retrace the other student’s steps, and then ask at the lost and found. He gives Sheryl’s enthusiasm a direction, kind of like her compass, but it’s her energy that propels them. It’s a great character balance and should make for an interesting dynamic over time.

Sheryl is so quirky, oblivious and driven that I find her endearing, and I like how James is the voice of reason that actually tends to solve problems (while Sheryl gets thanked first, which is just hilarious). It’s kind of an "Inspector Gadget and Penny" relationship, only way cuter in two kids, and lots funnier from where I sit because "Gadget" was kid-humour, pratfalls and clumsiness, whereas this is looking back on the crazy ideas of kids and remembering what it was like to exist in a world driven by imagination.

Sheryl’s boundless optimism is succinctly summarized in a haiku in the story that she writes for class:

Mysteries abound, The world is full of puzzles. I will solve them all!

Now, back to "221B Baker Street"—I actually like the old version of the story BETTER now than before because I kind of imagine Sheryl growing up to be basically the same person, doing things the same way. It would probably require editing to correlate the two stories a bit, and to change the Watson of the first story into the nicknamed Watson of the younger version, but in the end it would be worth it, I think, as a continuation of characterization and relationships.

(Then the only thing I would work on is police procedure, because in the original story there were several times that Sheryl actually broke the law while working on a case, and that seemed unlikely in the presence of a police officer. And the graphic murder scene, that doesn’t suit the comedy.)

This is some fun, light-hearted writing that is very enjoyable and worth checking out.

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