I’m afraid I’ve fallen into yet another book series, and I’m already behind. A Conspiracy in Belgravia (2017) is the second book in The Lady Sherlock Series by Sherry Thomas. It looks like there are now four books in this series. I’m not sure if more are planned, or how many there will be in total.
I read the first book, A Study in Scarlet Women, when I saw it on NPR’s List of Best Books. I loved how it began with Charlotte casually and strategically giving up her virginity for freedom. However, in gaining her freedom, she left her two sisters behind with her–let’s call them difficult–parents. Bernadine has some developmental problems that could possibly be a severe form of autism. Charlotte’s other sister, Livia, is quiet and artistic, and the two have a close relationship.
Charlotte Holmes is a unique woman, but she especially sticks out in 19th Century London. Her analytical, memory, and deduction skills make her superb at solving mysteries. After absconding from her parents’ home, Charlotte was able to set up a private investigation business with her new friend Mrs. Watson. She works under the name Sherlock Holmes, pretending that he is an invalid who cannot leave his room and speak to clients himself.
Another main character in the series, Lord Ingram, is an unhappily married man with an intense connection to Charlotte. Their relationship is one of respected equals with an undercurrent of unfulfilled romantic yearning. Lord Ingram’s brother, Lord Bancroft, has an interest in marrying Charlotte.
In A Conspiracy in Belgravia, Charlotte has a number of mysteries to solve. The first begins when Lady Ingram, the unhappy wife of Lord Ingram, comes to “Sherlock” looking for a man she’s loved since before she was married. The two had an agreement to walk by a fountain once a year, and he did not show up this year. Lady Ingram is desperately worried about him. To make things even more interesting, this old love of Lady Ingram’s is also Charlotte’s illegitimate brother. In addition, Lord Bancroft, in an effort to woo Charlotte, gives her some old mysteries from his job to solve. One of these is an old code that Charlotte breaks, eventually leading to the body of a murdered man. A shadowy, dangerous figure called Moriarty seems to be connected to much of the story.
I’ve enjoyed these books, but I had a number of minor quibbles as I read. Although the mysteries have some interesting components, they sometimes feel a little convoluted and random. In this book, I got a little tired of the constant code breaking that I could not really follow. It also felt like Charlotte was able to solve the mystery because she was lucky enough to run into everyone involved in the mystery at the post office. She was also very smart, of course, but the coincidences certainly piled up. Also, Charlotte basically ran away from home and society does not know where she is or what has happened to her. Now, I realize that London is a big city, but I don’t understand how Charlotte can so comfortably wander around London without anyone ever recognizing her. She hangs out with Lord Ingram, she investigates cases, and she goes to the park–all without incident. And wouldn’t people make the connection between Charlotte Holmes and Sherlock Holmes? It’s really not a very good pseudonym.
Finally, Charlotte is very high handed when it comes to providing information to her clients. She simply decides she’s not going to tell one client that she figured out who was poisoning her, instead going to the perpetrator and threatening him. She also withholds information from Lady Ingram. I wouldn’t want someone I hired to find information deciding what I should and shouldn’t know. It would be infuriating.
I primarily enjoy these books because I like the characters and their interactions. Even Lady Ingram, the wife of Charlotte’s love interest is given depth and feeling. The restrained and impossible love between Charlotte and Lord Ingram is also fascinating and keeps me reading. I think I’ll get around to the rest of these books eventually.
You can find all of my reviews on my blog.