Zoe's Reviews > Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers' Club

Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers' Club by Robert J. Harris
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really liked it

A fun read enjoyed in a single sitting, full of pace, atmosphere and excitement. Think The Sinclair's Mysteries by Katherine Woodfine but swap the main protagonists for two boys, and place all the action in a wintry and wonderful Victorian Edinburgh. There's humour, there's treasure and there are also quite a few currant buns!

Plenty of twists and turns ensure the mystery isn't solved by the reader ahead of time and the friendship between the two main characters, Artie and Ham, develops in a rather lovely way. There's a tender conversation at one point between the two of them about the dynamics of their relationship where Ham, the quieter, plumper one wonders if he's accepted as Artie's sidekick simply to make Artie look better. This honesty, and the sincere support Ham receives from his bolder friend boosts Ham's confidence and in the end it is Ham's brave actions which play a crucial role in ensuring that all's well that ends well.

The book stands well on its own terms as a detective story for 10-12 year olds, but an added level of interest comes from the fact that it is actually an imagined childhood of the author Arthur Conan Doyle. Whilst the plot is fiction (with a couple of knowing nods to two Sherlock Holmes novels), the background is all based on historical fact. You certainly don't need to have read any Conan Doyle or be a fan of Sherlock to enjoy this but it may well act as a gateway into those classics, which can be no bad thing.

The book is also very much rooted in its geographical setting and I also found myself thinking that I would be recommending this to friends with kids visiting Edinburgh who wanted a different sort of travel writing to share as a family. Lots of landmarks feature and a wonderful tour of the city could be constructed around the book.

As well as lots biographical details about Conan Doyle's family, The Gravediggers' Club includes several links to classic literature and wider history that could be explored, making this an ideal book for a starting point to lots of projects in class or at home. And as Artie says, "Stories give you tricks and plans to deal with all sorts of situations". Hopefully no reader will be digging up bodies, but many may come away from this book with inspiration for being (even more) resourceful, brave and curious.
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Reading Progress

February 20, 2018 – Shelved
Started Reading
February 21, 2018 – Finished Reading

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