Wednesday 11 December 2019

#CBR11 Book 85: "The Art of Theft" by Sherry Thomas

Page count: 304 pages
Audio book length: 10hrs 17mins
Rating: 4 stars

This is the fourth book in a five book series. It's not really the best place to begin. This review will also possibly contain spoilers for earlier books in the series. A Study of Scarlet Women is where you want to start.

Official book description:
As "Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective," Charlotte Holmes has solved murders and found missing individuals. But she has never stolen a priceless artwork—or rather, made away with the secrets hidden behind a much-coveted canvas.

But Mrs. Watson is desperate to help her old friend recover those secrets and Charlotte finds herself involved in a fever-paced scheme to infiltrate a glamorous Yuletide ball where the painting is one handshake away from being sold and the secrets a bare breath from exposure.

Her dear friend Lord Ingram, her sister Livia, Livia's admirer Stephen Marbleton—everyone pitches in to help and everyone has a grand time. But nothing about this adventure is what it seems and disaster is biding time on the grounds of a glittering French chateau, waiting only for Charlotte to make a single mistake...

Having now completed the fourth book in the series, it feels strange to think that at the start of this year, I hadn't read a single Charlotte Holmes novel. They feel like they've been part of my life for so long. While the previous three books have been rather twisty murder mysteries, here the main narrative involves a potential robbery (clever heist stories are my catnip!), something neither of our principal cast have much, if any, experience with. Not one to turn down a challenge, Charlotte sets her ingenious mind to plotting and organising, and soon, with the help of some trusted friends and allies, she has a plan to set in motion.

I like that Sherry Thomas has clearly set these books in the same world as her historical romances, made obvious by the fact that there is a guest appearance of one of her romance heroes. Leighton Atwood from The Heart of the Blade duology is one of the people aiding Charlotte, Lord Ingram, Mrs Watson and gang with their heist. That sort of cross referencing will mean nothing to most readers, but is a fun extra for long time fans of Thomas.

I don't know if there was much new revealed about any of the characters here. Livia and young Mr. Marbleton's romance is further developed, only for some truly disastrous news to derail it towards the end of this book. Charlotte and Lord Ingram spend far too little time together. Mrs. Watson continues to be awesome. The final third of the book sets in motion a number of things that will clearly come to fruition in the fifth (and final?) book, which is out next year. As someone who never found Moriarty all that interesting (except possibly when portrayed by Natalie Dormer on Elementary - no, I'm not going to spoiler tag seasons that are 5-6 years old by now), I wish I cared more about the big show-down that is no doubt coming. In anyone else's hands but Ms. Thomas' capable ones, I would possibly be bored, but I'm sure the conclusion to the series will also be very enjoyable.

Judging a book by its cover: These books pretty much all have lovely and suitable covers. I don't have much else to say, really.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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