★★★☆☆ Book Review: Sherlock Sam and the Seafaring Scourge on Sentosa by A.J. Low
Crime-solving child sleuths take to Singapore’s offshore islands.
I’ll admit, despite it being the fifteenth book in the series, this is actually the first Sherlock Sam book I’m reading. But even as a newcomer, it’s easy enough to dive into the fast-paced exploits of our local child detectives. And this time around, Sherlock Sam and the Wonderful Watson Online Detective Agency are taking their adventure beyond the mainland, as they travel out to the offshore islands to retrieve some stolen artifacts from their old nemesis – Pirates Inc.
Sam’s motley crew is made of a charming bunch of sleuthing enthusiasts, whether it’s Jimmy and his five pets named Benjamin, or robot buddy Watson, never ceasing to insert a reference to machinery. Sam himself may actually be the weakest link amongst them, in terms of characterisation, defined only by his ability to solve puzzles and put clues together. Juxtaposed in stark contrast against them are their bumbling adult brethren, from the adorable Officer Siva to no-nonsense Inspector Lestrade. There’s some good-natured humour thrown into the mix too, such as a joke about cassette tapes, and the kids being so young, they don’t even know what an mp3 file is.
What was perhaps most enjoyable about the book was its willingness to educate, introducing readers to things such as ASCII code and of course, Singapore’s offshore islands. While A.J. Low admits in an author’s note that the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented them from visiting the actual islands, thereby leading them to take some artistic liberties with the presentation of the islands, it doesn’t really detract from our enjoyment as the kids speed from one island to the next, attempting to get to the bottom of the case.
Sherlock Sam and the Seafaring Scourge on Sentosa winds up feeling less like a mystery and more of a race against the clock, and that’s no crime, a format that’s certain to appeal to its intended younger readers and existing fanbase. There’s enough twists and reveals to keep you flipping through the pages, and a colourful cast of characters (adorably illustrated by Drewscape) that will leave you wanting to read more of these whimsical adventures.
Recommended for: Fans of the series looking to dive in for another adventure with Sherlock and co, and want to learn a little more about our surrounding islands.
Sherlock Sam and the Seafaring Scourge on Sentosa is published by Epigram and available here