Reviewing Sherry Thomas & her version of Sherlock Holmes

I just finished reading two Sherlock Holmes novels by Sherry Thomas. The first in the series is called “A Study in Scarlet Women” while the second is “A Conspiracy in Belgravia.” I liked both of them a lot but I felt, in the first book at least, it took a long time to get into the story.

I knew from the blurb on the cover that Thomas had invented a new Sherlock, so well into the middle of the book I was still trying to figure things out as I read. Certainly a lot was happening, like Charlotte Holmes allowing herself to be “ruined” so that she could live her life as she wanted. However, given how important Charlotte’s role in the book was, I was suspicious right from the start.

Spoiler alert! Of course, Charlotte turns out to be Sherlock and the second book refers immediately to her as Lady Sherlock.

Both stories are fast paced and have lots of action and angst, particularly in the second book with respect to loyalty. As to the characters, they are so well described and presented I either liked or hated them immediately. But, it is the settings that are amazing because, literally, every house, flat and scene are true to the Victorian Period — particularly with respect to the role of women and what women had to do in order to be able to take control of their own lives.

If I have any complaint about these books it is that having a female Sherlock Holmes aided by a Mrs. Watson, and living at an Upper Baker Street address, very close to Arthur Conan Doyle’s 221B Baker Street, doesn’t seem realistic. But that complaint does not change the fun it was to read them.

I have read several versions of Sherlock Holmes, including the Mary Russell Bee Keeper’s Apprentice series by Laurie R. King.  For those who haven’t read that series, I would highly recommend it as Mary Russell and a retired Sherlock, get married and experience many adventures and mysteries together.

But, while I am not sure a female Sherlock is as believable as Doyle’s or King’s versions, in all fairness to Thomas, putting forth a new version of Sherlock Holmes does have a certain brilliance to it.

The crux of the matter is that both books are good mysteries and fun to imagine. As such, I will give both books 5 stars out of 5.

Both books published by Berkeley, New York. A Study in Scarlet Women (2016). A Conspiracy in Belgravia (2017).

Review of Amanda Quick’s wonderful new book “Garden of Lies”

Click for other reviews at Goodreads.

Click for other reviews at Goodreads.

I have always enjoy Jayne Anne Krentz, no matter what she writes. In this case, she is writing as Amanda Quick. Truly, the “Garden of Lies” is a wonderful love story within a complex mystery, not the other way around. So, while I will admit that I found the book slow to start, the pace picked up quickly and had me hooked until the end.

There are two main characters in this story. Ursula Kern, who has reinvented herself after a scandal earlier in her life, is the main character. She owns and runs a secretarial agency, which is unusual because few women ran businesses in the late Victorian period.

However, since the manual typewriter had just been invented and women the ones learning to use them, in this book at least, women working for a living had become more accepted by both those in the middle and upper classes. Of course, as Kern and her secretaries knew, for the aristocracy, they were simply another type of servant.

The other main character is Slater Roxton, a somewhat eccentric archeologist and appraiser of ancient artefacts.

Set in the late Victorian period, the story’s Kern is a modern woman and intellectually alert, which Roxton finds intriguing.

Regarding Roxton, the first thing we learn in the book is that he is nearly buried alive at an archeological site at a volcanic no-man’s land called Fever Island. Trapped and thinking he has been buried alive, he eventually manages to find a way out by choosing the third tunnel of a maze. However, the ship that would have taken him and his colleague back to Britain has already left and, stranded, he spends a year with a group of eccentric vegetarian philosophers in a monk-like setting.

Next, we find out that one of Kern’s clients and closest friend, Anne Clifton has died quite unexpectedly. The official explanation is that her death was either accidental or suicide. However, Kern doesn’t believe that for a minute and decides to take on Anne’s last job to see if she can uncover a possible plot or reason that she might have been murdered.

Roxton and Kern are, of course, attracted to one another. When Kern resigns from helping him catalogue his artefact collection, he wants to know why. As a result, he manages to get her to admit what she is planning. After much back and forth, the two enter into a mutually agreeable and equal partnership to find out what really happened to Clifton and why.

Of course, the action is fast once the informal investigation gets under way and, warning, bodies tend to drop at a regular intervals. Of course, drugs and top of the line prostitutes are involved, as is an attempt by the “aristocracy” to hush things up. However, without giving anything away, suffice to say the mystery plot — and its many intertwined sub-plots — is eventually solved.

Plus, I smiled at the ending.

My rating for this book is 4 stars out of 5.

Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons (359 pages)