Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Conspiracy in Belgravia

A Conspiracy in Belgravia (The Lady Sherlock Series) by [Thomas, Sherry]

A Conspiracy in Belgravia (Lady Sherlock Series #2)- Sherry Thomas
Berkely/Penguin Group
Release Date: September 5, 2017

Rating (Out of 5):

Synopsis: Being shunned by Society gives Charlotte Holmes the time and freedom to put her extraordinary powers of deduction to good use. As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” aided by the capable Mrs. Watson, she’s had great success helping with all manner of inquiries, but she’s not prepared for the new client who arrives at her Upper Baker Street office.
Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte’s dear friend and benefactor, wants Sherlock Holmes to find her first love, who failed to show up at their annual rendezvous. Matters of loyalty and discretion aside, the case becomes even more personal for Charlotte as the missing man is none other than Myron Finch, her illegitimate half brother.
In the meanwhile, Charlotte wrestles with a surprising proposal of marriage, a mysterious stranger woos her sister Livia, and an unidentified body surfaces where least expected. Charlotte’s investigative prowess is challenged as never before: Can she find her brother in time—or will he, too, end up as a nameless corpse somewhere in the belly of London?

In late Victorian England, it's not always easy to be an independently minded woman.  Charlotte Holmes has managed thanks to her good friend Mrs. Watson and Charlotte's alter ego, "Sherlock" Holmes, invalid consulting detective.  But things become complicated when Lady Ingram, wife of her good friend Lord Ingram, comes to "Sherlock" asking for help finding her first love: Charlotte's illegitimate half-brother.  Mysterious coded messages, dead bodies turning up where least expected, and a woman who is convinced her father's housekeeper is trying to poison her all help to muddy the already murky waters.  Can Charlotte sort out this tangled web before getting caught in it herself?

This sequel to A Study in Scarlet Women picks up right where the first book left off.  Readers who haven't read Study first (or who read it only when it came out last year) will have a little trouble catching up, as Sherry Thomas doesn't remind us of anything specific that happened in Study while alluding to it often.  I would definitely recommend reading (or re-reading) Study before starting Conspiracy. That said, Conspiracy is both a good mystery and a very complex one- and clearly a bridge book to what will come next. Conspiracy involves plenty of codes, deceit, and impersonations to ensure the reader understands that the shadowy figure of Moriarty is directing an endless number of minions for sinister purposes we can only guess at- but that Charlotte will no doubt soon face.  There are times when these confused me as much as they were supposed to confuse the police and I actually re-read the book as soon as I'd first finished it to try and make more sense out of some of it. (It helped that the second time I read it nearly in one sitting, where the first time had been more piecemeal). 

I enjoyed Thomas' continued ability to weave multiple stories together.  A seemingly unconnected case of poisoning becomes as integral to the story as the main case of Charlotte's missing brother, Myron Finch, and not just tossed into the book to show that "Sherlock" had multiple cases at once. Both Mrs Watson and Charlotte remain strong characters and I loved that Mrs Watson is still an integral part of the team and clearly important to Charlotte, instead of being taken for granted as her male counterpart in Doyles' books often seemed.  I was disappointed at the brief role given to Inspector Treadles in Conspiracy.  His role (investigating several murders that connect back to Moriarty) seemed forced, the few scenes with him both jarring to the rest of the narrative and making him a rather unlikeable and shallow person. His scenes came across more as the author not wanting readers to forget about him completely while not really having anything useful for him to do. Hopefully he'll come across better later in the series.

Overall, Conspiracy is not as good as Thomas' first Lady Sherlock book, but it keeps you drawn into the world and the characters.  While the extra obscurity surrounding much of the main mystery mean its sometimes hard to follow, I get the feeling Conspiracy is setting the reader up for a major conflict with the mysterious Moriarty revealing him(her?)self very soon.    

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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