I was very taken with the first novel in the Lady Sherlock series and keen to see where Charlotte Holmes’ detective skills would lead her and her companions next. We pick up the story a short while after ‘Sherlock’ Holmes’ first notable case, although we soon learn that ‘he’ has also been solving more mundane and domestic mysteries in the interim. It’s one of these seemingly ordinary cases, however, that soon leads Charlotte and her companion, Mrs. Watson, deeper than ever into the world of conspiracy and international crime that they encountered on their last great adventure.
Charlotte is estranged from her family and shunned by most of society, though her childhood friend, Lord Ingram, still calls on her – as does his brother, Lord Bancroft: and it is the latter who surprises Charlotte with a proposal of marriage. Meanwhile, Lady Ingram requests a consultation with Sherlock, throwing the lady detectives into a twin quandary; whatever her ladyship wants investigating is almost certainly a secret she’s been keeping from her husband, so should they betray him by helping her? And how can they keep up the pretence of an invalid brother performing the real feats of deduction, when Lady Ingram is likely to recognise both Charlotte and Mrs. Watson, no matter how well disguised?
Fortunately, the pair have a young visitor in the form of Mrs. Watson’s niece, whom they reluctantly ask to help, and who enthusiastically accepts their offer. When Lady Ingram visits ‘Sherlock,’ the detectives’ fears are realised: she has been harbouring feelings for another man since long before her marriage to Lord Ingram. Not only that, the man in question might very well be the illegitimate brother Charlotte has long been aware of, but has never met. Fearing that a dreadful fate might have overcome him after he failed to make his annual rendezvous with Lady Ingram, Charlotte takes on the search for the missing man, and in doing so finds herself investigating other, possibly related, dastardly crimes.
I loved the way all the convoluted strands of this story were slowly pulled together, with a veritable shoal of red herrings being encountered along the way. I was also delighted to learn that Charlotte’s younger sisters are still very much involved in the stories, with the middle sister, Livia, attempting to pen fictional accounts of Sherlock’s adventures, and becoming involved in (romantic) intrigues of her own. Meanwhile, the youngest of the Holmes girls is pining greatly for Charlotte, a major factor in her turmoil over whether to accept Lord Bancroft’s proposal. That plot was wound up very much to my satisfaction, as were several other minor conundrums, and I’m very keen to see where all the unfinished loose ends lead our heroines, including Mrs. Watson’s niece and her friends, next.
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?
Read an excerpt.