by Sherry Thomas
Lady Sherlock #1
Navessa has been recommending this series to me since 2017. I honestly can’t say why I didn’t start them long ago. But I’m kicking myself now.
I LOVED this book. It’s easily going to be one of my favorites of the year. And my procrastination has a positive effect: I now have five more books I can read back-to-back and enjoy right away, without wait. I probably shouldn’t be rewarded for hesitation this way.
I’ve never read Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterpieces have passed me by – at least in the written word format. I think I just didn’t feel mysteries really interested me. So I never sat down and tried the most famous detective stories (beside Hercule Poirot who I also have not read).
But I’ve seen almost every single adaptation of Sherlock Holmes out there. All the movies and TV shows. I’ve enjoyed a good majority of them. So I came to this expecting differences, an adaptation, with love, to the original – knowing that I’d never really know how close or far from the original it strayed.
And I found it doesn’t matter that I don’t know. Because this book takes everything that even I know and flips it on its head. Not just the gender reversals and the subtle feminism that permeates the entirety of not only Charlotte but a good many other characters, but also the deep way in which the story is told.
I’ve come to expect quick bursts of insight and almost unfathomable leaps from Sherlock Holmes. And I did get that here, but I also got deep thought and investigation as well as consideration of moves and countermoves.
I said earlier that mysteries don’t really interest me, but I absolutely adore when a book can keep me guessing despite putting all the clues in front of my face. And A Study in Scarlet Women definitely shocked me with some of the twists and turns at the end. Right when I thought all had finally been revealed, it revealed yet more that I hadn’t even had the faintest inkling about!
I do think that this book is either going to be something fresh and lovely to a reader, or impossible to enjoy. It’s written employing a rather unique character and relationship development axis. Many books have a comfortable discuss/imply axis that they rely on. The characters say certain subsets of feelings, ideas, thoughts out loud and imply others. We can infer the implied ones because we have read in the genre, or experienced it in real life, or bring some other experience to it.
A Study in Scarlet Women actually uses a somewhat skewed discuss/imply axis*. Things that are normally implied are discussed outright. Things that are normally discussed, may not be at all and we’re left wondering. It took me a minute to get used to this slight tilt to what I was used to, but not very long and I loved it so quickly. Because it provided for wonderous development, not only of the characters but of the relationships between the characters.
This book also does something beautifully that I can’t say a ton of historicals excel at – world-building. For some that may feel a bit like diving into minutiae, but for me it was akin to some of the best world-building from my favorite fantasy series. The perfect amount to make me feel as if I was standing next to Charlotte, not only seeing what she sees, but experiencing the realities of the world that she was living in.
I barely stopped myself from diving into book two, A Conspiracy in Belgravia, long enough to write this review. Now, I can’t hold back any longer. I highly recommend this book.
See Navessa’s review to more reasons to read.
*Discuss/imply axis is not my idea – a friend came up with it in a discussion on discord and it so perfectly encapsulated what this book felt like to me.