Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers' Club

Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers' Club
Robert J. Harris
Floris Books


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Books for kids have a tall order. They should have a subtle (practically invisible) moral lesson that is delivered in a package that is fun, entertaining, not condescending. They should use language well, introduce the reader to new concepts, places, stories and characters, as well as make all those things relevant. And the instant the story begins to smell moral, young readers are out the door. Those old mystery books series like Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys managed to fulfill all of the above, as well as write to a child's eye view, and introduce essentials like the importance of side-kicks. Robert J. Harris's Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers' Club also does a pretty good job of filling this very tall order.

It seems a no brainer to pick young Artie Conan Doyle to be the inquisitive main character of a child mystery, but it is a perfectly genius concept. And of course, Artie must have a childhood sidekick to parallel Watson, hence the dependable and oft hungry Ham. Even the 'Gravedigger' title falls perfectly into the kid mystery genre, too. And where better to begin the tale than in the beautifully drawn murk of Greyfriars graveyard a week after the death of the most famous of loyal terriers, Grayfriar's Bobby?

Mix together ghosts, gravediggers, a mysterious tenant, the lady in gray, a couple of curious boys, and fantastic ambiance and you have a solid recipe to satisfy any reader's mystery appetite. Artie and Ham felt quite real to me as we were hot on the trail of the mystery. I even like well-read Artie's home library, and hope young readers will be inspired to check out Artie's favorite books. I recommend Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers' Club to any kid (or adult) who would be interested in Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and even Sherlock Holmes. Meanwhile, I did a little research, and find myself intrigued by some of Robert J. Harris's other titles.

The Hardy Boys* meet Arthur Conan Doyle in Robert J. Harris's Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers' Club.

*(Okay, the Hardy Boys don't actually make an appearance in 1872. You probably knew that, but I figured I should make it really clear.)