Favorite Quote: “I never thought I’d say this, Charlotte Holmes-or even think it. But I wish to God I’d never met you.”
Reviewed by Tori
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 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? (Blurb)
A Conspiracy in Belgravia picks up right after book one ends. Charlotte has discovered Mrs. Watson was hired by Lord Ingram to offer Charlotte support after she ruins herself and leaves home. Charlotte’s parents are humiliated by her actions and plotting ways to bring Charlotte to heel while she schemes to find a way to bring her other siblings into her home permanently. She has triumphantly solved her first case as Sherlock Holmes and is contacted by two new clients; one of which is a shock. Lady Ingram, the wife of Charlotte’s oldest friend and benefactor, has asked for help finding a missing person. This leads to a series of revelations that could not only affect the Ingram marriage and Charlotte’s relationship with Lord Ingram but also her future.
Of course, Lady Ingram cannot know that Charlotte is the infamous Holmes so an elaborate ruse is concocted with the help of Penelope Redmayne, Mrs. Watson’s niece. As Charlotte digs deeper into the Ingram case, she finds a connection to another case and the criminal mastermind, Moriarty. To top it all off, Lord Bancroft has proposed again and this time, Charlotte is seriously considering it.
“It wasn’t easy to surprise Charlotte but Lord Bancroft was coming dangerously close to flabbergasting her.”
The various relationships we form in life all play a large role in Sherry Thomas’ latest historical adventure. This delightful concoction of mystery, intrigue, humor, and agency effortlessly engages as we follow our heroine, Charlotte Holmes, in her bid for independence and free will while she puts her analytical mind against some the city’s best. The potential for romance adds a sense of longevity while Thomas’s sharp and witty dialogue, inventive plotlines, and atypical characters rebuilds the world that offers readers a fresh feminist at an old legend.
“…there had been no Sherlock Holmes, ever, only a woman possessed of a brilliant mind. A woman who was never longer acceptable in polite society.”
While I am not intimate with Arthur Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, I am familiar with the general premise and the main cast of characters. Thomas’ use of the Holmes canon as a starting point in which to create and fine tune her interpretation in an intriguing bridge for fans to form their own connections between the two worlds. Readers of Doyle’s Holmes may recognize the similarities in this story with A Scandal in Bohemia though it’s very faint and Thomas definitely takes liberties. Thomas also begins to draw comparisons between her’s and Doyle’s characters; creating her own version of Mycroft (Lord Bancroft), Inspector Lestrade (Inspector Treadles), and interestingly enough, Irene Adler and the King of Bohemia (I’ll let the reader discover who is the King and who is Irene).
Charlotte intrigues as an unconventional protagonist in a time when women normally went from childhood to marriage with very little else allowed. Her experiences have changed her, regardless of what she believes, and her growth is evident as she begins to form connections beyond her limited social sphere. Thomas continues to give voice to the prejudicial and judgemental attitude Charlotte and the other women of this story face on a daily basis. No matter how intelligent and clever they are, their gender will always be the deciding factor in how society deals with them. One glaring example of this is a conversation between Lord Ingram and Charlotte. Ingram feels some tension coming off his old friend, Inspector Treadles, and expresses shock when Charlotte explains it’s because of her.
“He respects women he deems worthy of respect—I am no longer one of those in his eyes. He is not pleased that he has helped and been helped by a woman he cannot respect. And he cannot think as highly of you as he had earlier, because my lack of respectability seems to have made no difference to you.”
“What kind of a friend would I be if I’d cut ties the moment you were no longer acceptable to the rest of Society? And why should he be offended that I didn’t do it?”
“…there are men like Inspector Treadles, an excellent person by almost all standards. But he admires the world as it is and he subscribes to the rules that uphold the world as it is. For him then it’s the principle of the thing. Anyone who breaks the rules endangers the order of the world and should be punished. He does not ask whether the rules are fair; he only cares that they are enforced. Someone like me, who has broken the rules blatantly without seeming to have suffered any consequences—I am an affront, a menace to the order that he holds dear. Worse, his opinion is immaterial to me and he cannot do anything about it. It must chafe at him. I only hope his wife fares better, if she ever breaks any rules he deems important.”
“But he loves her!”
“I’m sure he does. Let’s remember, however, that he also admired Sherlock Holmes, until he discovered Charlotte Holmes’s transgressions.”
A bonus of this series for me so far is that Thomas doesn’t attempt to insult or manipulate the reader into thinking that Charlotte is anything more than what she presents. She is intelligent, emotionally dense, and possesses a disconcerting ability to dissect people. She’s a young, unmarried, socially ruined woman who will eventually have to pay the piper for the things she has done. Society will demand its pound of flesh.
A varied well-defined cast of secondary characters all play a much necessary role in developing and maintaining the various while promoting their individualism. Charlotte’s sister Livia is a delight and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her attempts to pen Sherlock Holmes’ fanfic. Her love of fictional drama only endears her more to me and her fear of failure is second to her love for Charlotte and their sister Bernadine. Charlotte sums up Livia brilliantly here;
“Life is not easy for Livia – it has never been. She is an intelligent, discerning woman who believes her intelligence and discernment to be of no value.”
Lord Ingram and Lord Bancroft both want Charlotte but for different reasons, neither of which seem to offer any real long term benefits for her. Charlotte’s relationship with the older Watson fluctuates between a parental tone and one on which they are equals- creating one of the bonds I spoke of earlier. Lady Ingram, though not a friend, is strong antagonist whose choices and duplicity speaks further of women’s lack of agency. Charlotte and Lady Ingram are far more alike than originally thought as they each strove to do what they wanted, merely choosing a different route. Inspector Treadles holds a far smaller role in here though his relationship with his wife Alice is expounded on and relates back to the common theme running through here on marriage, ownership, women, and their perceived places. Interested in seeing what becomes of this subplot.
Thomas kept me on my toes with the dual investigations and I found myself almost giddy at the twists and turns Thomas injects. I love the inclusion of Moriarty into the storyline and the possible role he will be taking. I admit to missing a few clues and being forced to reread certain sections but once I figured it out, it was smooth sailing. To my delight, Charlotte takes a far more active role in here and the ending wraps up the main conflict while setting the stage for more to come.
A Conspiracy in Belgravia has an excellent follow up to A Study in Scarlet Women and I find myself excited to see what Thomas have in store for Holmes and Watson in the future.
Lady Sherlock Series