Thursday, 25 April 2019

#CBR11 Book 15: "A Conspiracy in Belgravia" by Sherry Thomas

Page count: 336 pages
Audio book length:
Rating: 4 stars

This is the second book in a series. While it can be read independently, and probably makes sense on its own, you'd be better off starting with book one, A Study in Scarlet Women

From Goodreads:
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 enquiries, 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 that 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?

Now, there are several downsides to having sped through the audiobook version of this in about 24 hours, and having finished the book over a month and a half ago. While I remember very much enjoying it and thinking it builds excellently on the very strong beginning of the series, the details of the plot are decidedly hazy to me (it's a bit tricky for me to recall exactly what was revealed in each of the three books, as I read all of them in a week quite some time ago now).

Despite the misgivings of Mrs. Watson and her niece, Charlotte Holmes chooses to accept a case from Lady Ingram, the wife of  her best friend (a man who very clearly regrets his marriage, and also most likely loves our heroine - it's uncertain whether Charlotte acknowledges and/or returns the sentiment). Lady Ingram claims that once a year, she walks in the park and nods politely at her first love, the man her family didn't approve or would allow her to marry. They never speak or interact in any other way, but he never made their current rendezvous, and she is worries that something bad has happened to him. Charlotte and Mrs. Watson try to suggest that there may be a rational explanation for his absence, and he may just have moved on with his life, yet Lady Ingram insists she needs a definite answer as to why he didn't show up.

Of course it turns out that the case isn't as simple as it first appears, involving, among others, Charlotte's half-brother and a number of other complications. The police need help identifying a young man found dead who may or may not be connected to the case, and on top of everything else, Charlotte receives a marriage proposal from Lord Ingram's older brother, Lord Bancroft Ashburton. There would be many obvious advantages to the match, especially in terms of restoring her ruined reputation in society, appeasing her outraged parents and furthering her sister Livia's chances at a good match. On the other hand, there is Lord Ingram and what becoming his sister-in-law might do to their current connection.

I must admit that even though I was expecting some twists and turns, I had not for a second foreseen where Ms. Thomas ended up taking the story. I don't usually read too many mysteries these days, but it's always fun when the plot of one is constucted in such a way that you're always guessing, and still pleasantly surprised at the end, when all is revealed.

Judging a book by its cover: This is such an evocative, atmospheric cover, with the beautifully attired woman apparently running through the London fog, with the colours of her dress almost blending with the surroundings. It doesn't really have much to do with the story of the book, but would absolutely make me pick up a copy in a bookstore.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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