BOOK WORM Do you like reading about Sherlock Holmes? If so, then these books would surely hold you in thrall as this youngster bravely encounters all odds to find answers to death defying puzzles.

He’s one of the most popular detectives of all times; any adventure of Sherlock Holmes holds most readers enthralled. And now you’ve got the movies as well. For those who were wondering what led Sherlock Holmes into the business of solving mysteries, here’s some light.

Andrew Lane’s Young Sherlock Holmes series goes back in time to the great detective’s childhood. It’s 1868 and Sherlock Holmes is just 14. His mother is sick and his father is serving in the British army in India. Since his brother Mycroft (already a very important member of the British government) can’t really care for a teenager, Sherlock is sent off to his uncle Sherrinford Holmes’ residence in Farnham.

We first meet young Sherlock in Death Cloud as Mycroft pulls him out of school to inform him that he will henceforth be based in Farnham and be tutored by the American Amyus Crowe. Sherlock also makes friends with Matty, who lives on the streets. The adventure begins when Sherlock discovers a pustule-ridden body in the garden. Is this the beginning of plague? Matty has already told Sherlock of a similar death when he saw smoke crawl up a wall and fly out of a window. Is there a rational explanation or is this some supernatural stuff? And how is Mrs. Eglantine, the housekeeper at Holmes Manor, tied up in all this?

In Red Leech, Sherlock and Matty are drawn into the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Too many people are keeping secrets including those like Mycroft and Amyus Crowe who should have known better. When Sherlock and Matty stumble into a nest of conspirators led by Oswald Wilkes Booth, a trip to the U.S. becomes inevitable.

In Black Ice, it’s Mycroft’s turn to get into trouble. He’s discovered standing over a dead body with a knife in his hand. It’s obvious to everyone that he’s killed the man. Except Sherlock, who now has to travel to Russia to prove his brother’s innocence.

In Fire Storm, Amyus Crowe and his daughter Virginia have disappeared. Sherlock and Matty trail them to Scotland to come up against a madman, who’s hunting the Crowe’s, and claims he can control the dead. Now how true is that?

Those who have read the Sherlock Holmes stories will pick up the links quite easily. Wondered about his knowledge of tattoos? It begins with an incident in Red Leech as does his mastery of the violin. Rufus Stone, the violinist-cum-spy, keeps popping up in the stories with unfailing regularity. Sherlock’s phenomenal memory and knowledge are the result of Amyus Crowe’s tutoring. You can also trace his army of Street Arabs to his friendship with Matty.

Andrew Lane’s books don’t give you a breather. Jump into the action and see if you can catch the connections faster than Sherlock. The racy plots also pack quite a punch when it comes to giving information on history, nature, geography and a whole host of trivia. At the end of Fire Storm, Sherlock is on his way to China. Can’t wait to find out what happens when he gets there!

DEATH CLOUD; RED LEECH, BLACK ICE, FIRE STORM; Andrew Lane, Macmillan, Rs. 299.