Return of the MacDougalls

“Attack of the Violet Vampire” is Book 2 of Derrick Belanger`s  MacDougall twins series, and it`s as fresh and appealing as the original.  Victorian sibling sleuths  Emma and Jimmy investigate the puzzling case of a mysterious  “Violet Vampire” who randomly glides into London and commits robberies, including the theft of Mrs.  MacDougall`s treasured heirloom ring.  Since their friend and mentor Sherlock Holmes is working on another mystery, the resourceful pair must begin searching for clues on their own.

The kids are more than up to the task, despite the misleading ideas of Inspector Lestrade ( based on an actual detective character from the  Arthur Conan Doyle tales),  who is convinced that  the Vampire is an actual otherworldly creature.   Much humor comes from Lestrade`s determination to prove this.  He progresses from thinking that the flying thief is a primitive human “ancestor” to declaring it a visitor from another planet.  The truth is far from these  Weekly World News-esque extremes, and  one quickly becomes absorbed by the twins` quest to discover the Vampire`s identity.

Like the previous book, the story explains a lot about detective work in a clear yet intriguing way.  Jimmy muses that witnesses to a crime must be questioned right away, since they can alter their stories over time, resulting in “big fish tales.”  Emma notices that Lestrade makes “the facts fit his theory instead of basing a theory off of the facts.”  Observations of this type can open the gate to critical thinking for younger readers.

Characters such as the twins` likeable parents and loyal friend Nolan the Newsboy return, and there are a few new ones, including scent expert Toby,  an older dog with the appearance of a “wise and ancient puppy.”  He is based on a dog who sometimes helped Holmes solve mysteries in the original  Doyle stories  ( described as “half spaniel, half lurcher,” Toby first appeared in the tale The Sign of the Four).

The author keeps Violet Vampire firmly grounded in its time period, providing explanatory  notes on everything from glider devices to  phaetons.   Fans of Victorian/19th century lit will enjoy references to other famous works, as when Lestrade quips, “We don`t want a war of the worlds on our hands.”   Brian Belanger`s  lively  black and white drawings  bring the  adventures to vivid life.  His illustrations range from the scientific detail of the story`s Victorian machines to whimsical portraits of the major characters.  This book is definitely a fun and enriching read for Holmes and mystery devotees of all ages.


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