A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas
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?
With this second installment, the Lady Sherlock series officially becomes my favorite historical fiction series of all time.
Nothing else even comes close. Five stars are NOT ENOUGH. <— I have literally never said that in a review before.
Sherry Thomas is a goddess. She has literally given me everything I have ever wanted from this genre.
Interesting take on a retelling: ✔
Compelling romantic sub-plot: ✔
Accurate depiction of a time period: ✔
Whip-smart female lead: ✔
Plots within plots: ✔
A complex cast of characters: ✔
Honestly, I could go on and on here. This list is really never ending. So lemme try to get my shit together and stop fangirling.
*another deep breath*
The Lady Sherlock series centers around Charlotte Holmes, a woman who is so smart that normal mortals struggle with her intelligence. Especially since this is set in a time period where women were generally understood to be second class citizens, to be lesser than men in every regard.
When I say that this centers on Charlotte, I mean that these books are told through multiple third person PoVs. The cast of characters are all connected to her in some way, but they each have their own voice and story arcs that progress along with the series.
I am invested in each and every one of them. Even the characters I don’t really like, because, through Charlotte’s astounding insight, I understand them, and want them to understand themselves and become better people when they do.
Charlotte, I think, might be my favorite female lead of all time. So often when an author delivers us a woman genius, they divorce all femininity from the character. It subtly reinforces the stigma that intelligence = masculinity. It prologues the obnoxious belief that women can’t be taken seriously if they like fashion, or pretty things, or show emotion.
Sherry Thomas thinks that’s bullshit.
So she writes Charlotte with a delicious mix of wit and eccentricity. Charlotte can tell you what the weather was like in the town you passed through yesterday morning just by looking at you. But she also adores ornate gowns dressed with ribbons and bows. She takes great pleasure from sugary confections wrapped in pretty parcels.
And while her cool logic might render her outwardly calm and unshakable, she is not immune or allergic to displays of strong emotions in others. Despite what the other characters may think.
It was all too easy, at times, to believe that she never felt anything, that inside her rib cage beat not a heart, but the metronomic device of an automaton.
She’s not unfeeling. She has a heart. Her emotions just manifest differently than how others expect.
I adored the first book in this series. This one is somehow even better. The character growth (or maybe not growth, but expansion?) is phenomenal. And the plot. Yea gods.
It starts off simple enough: an aristocratic lady searching for her long lost love.
A good analogy is that this plot is like a ball of twine. In the beginning of this book, it’s a tightly woven, orderly thing. And then it just unravels from there. Three quarters of the way through, it looks like something a litter of kittens got into and dragged halfway throughout the house. You have no idea which strands attach to each other or how to make any sense of it. It’s a convoluted jumble that you have no idea how to put back together. And then Sherry Thomas takes you by the hand and pulls you away from it to look at it from a greater distance and you realize that there was a pattern there all along. One so complex and ingenious that you’re not even mad you didn’t see it.
Seriously, the first time I read the ending of this book, I set it aside and muttered, “Well, shit.”
It’s no wonder that Charlotte reads like a legitimate genius when she comes from a mind like Thomas’.
And she does read like one. There’s a part early on in this installment where she solves a complex code called a Vigenère cipher that is truly breathtaking. And I speak as someone with a background in this. As someone who worked in binary and morse. Who listened to squeaks and beeps for the government for over a decade and whose job it was to make sense of them for other people.
So, yeah, this series will forever hold a special place in my heart.
I cannot recommend it enough for readers with long attention spans. For those who adore the classics. Or for anyone looking for a complex, yet still fun and captivating set of stories capable of wholly transporting you to another time and place.