Sherlock has been drugged, kidnapped, and sent off to China on the Gloria Scott, most likely by the Paradol Chamber. Amyus Crowe and Mycroft Holmes are concerned, but since there is nothing they can do, they decide from the comfort of Mycroft's club that Sherlock will learn a lot and come back to them in about a year. To Sherlock's credit, that's pretty much what he does. He is considered a stowaway on the ship, and put to work. He has a friend in the ship's cook, Wu Cheng, and is a hard worker and a polite soul, so he gets along well. There are all sorts of perils on the high seas, from storms to pirates to the odd traveler Arrhenius, who has poisoned himself with silver to avoid diseases, but eventually, the ship does dock in Shanghai. There, Sherlock declines an invitation to Wu Cheng's house, but meets American Cameron Mackenzie, who is Sherlock's age and glad of some company. The two spend time hanging around, but then Wu Cheng becomes very ill. Sherlock investigates, and finds that Cheng has been bitten by a venomous snake with a broken fang. He is unable to save his friend, and later, Cameron's father is also bitten by a snake. Clearly, there is a plot afoot, and Sherlock is ready to put the clues together and foil a huge plot before getting ready to head back to England.
Other titles in this series include Death Cloud, Rebel Fire, Black Ice, and Fire Storm, and several other titles are planned. I just hope they make it to the US!
Strengths: Lots of action, good mystery, an engaging main character, and credible and interesting supporting characters make this a highly readable book. Due to the historical nature, I don't have as many readers for these, but all the books have engrossing, easy to follow plots, and a charming and resourceful character in Sherlock.
Weaknesses: The covers are all over the place, making the series look disorganized. Death Cloud has a horrible, Justin Bieber lookalike cover, so it takes some hand selling to get students to pick this up. I know that sounds strange, but it really is true!
What I really think: I would read these for pleasure even if I didn't have to read them for school. I love the various places that Sherlock travels, and how unflinching he is when he meets any difficulty. I did miss having Amyus and Virginia in this book and hope to see them return!