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 “The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply.” [SUSS]

Sherlock Bones and the Horror of the Haunted Castle is the fourth in a series of Puzzle Quest paperback books from author Tom Collins and illustrator John Bigwood. This “Sherlock Bones” is not to be confused with the character in one of The Earliest Sherlock Holmes-Star Trek Crossovers.

The adventure follows Sherlock Bones and Dr. Catson as they help a wealthy dog couple who have inherited their wealthy cousin’s kennel, a castle in the Catpathian Mountains, complete with a ghost. The couple brings the detectives to the castle to help rid them of said ghost.

Throughout the mystery Sherlock Bones stays rooted in reality, searching for a perpetrator and motive. Dr. Catson’s breakthrough in the case comes when she trusts her own eyes rather than what others have suggested, which is always a good lesson. Even though Holmes did not find a three-bone problem in this mystery, he did share his latest experiments which involved making chewing bones chewier.

It is satisfying to see that Dr. Catson is portrayed as an action-oriented part of the detecting team, quick to bound after suspects and take risks of her own. Her contributions to solving the mystery are vital. I also agree with her ideas about what does not make fine cuisine.

The target audience for this book is children aged 7 to 9, and this might be a good way to introduce those in your life to the famous detective and his Boswell. The book comes complete with engaging twists and some hair-raising situations. The fourteen chapters tell an interesting tale with several different animals featured.

The twenty-eight puzzles that appear as part of the story were fun and also helpful for keeping track of the different characters. The giggle-inducing mention of "underpants" is sure to entertain. All-in-all experiencing the whole book is a great activity.

Although I am not in the book’s target demographic, the story was very pleasant and a good read. The characters were fun, and the mystery itself built to a satisfying solution that was not completely obvious. While following Holmes and Dr. Catson along their journey to solve the mystery, I found myself pausing to solve the puzzles.

If you have a reader aged 7 to 9 who enjoys mysteries and chapter books, or if you enjoy and collect this genre of pastiches, you should find this an enjoyable book. You and your young reader may also be pleased to see some parallels between this story and The Hound of the Baskersvilles.

The book is available to preorder, and will be released on 5 March 2024. (Amazon | Bookshop.org)