A mystery invokes New York City streets, serial killer thrills, and the creator of Sherlock Holmes himself.
Brutal murders, perverse Latin inscriptions, and fingerprints seemingly burned into victims’ throats would scream “demon” to many in the sweltering streets of 1888 New York, but Harrison Fearing Pell has other ideas. Harry and her friend and assistant, John Weston, believe in what they can see, what they can prove—and in taking advantage of an opportunity. While her older sister, Myrtle, is a consulting detective of some renown, Harry is only 19, with few accomplishments. So, when a case reeking of blood and superstition walks into the office while Myrtle is away, Harry sees it as a perfect chance to prove herself. And as tension and fear over the killer known as “Mr. Hyde” rise throughout the city, the prize only seems to become sweeter. But as Harry and John chase leads through both the most dismal slums and glimmering boulevards the city has to offer, they come across more and more situations that force them to question if they—an armchair detective and a medical student—are in over their heads. And even if they have the confidence and encouragement of Harry’s uncle, Arthur Conan Doyle, one wrong move might mean death—or worse. While the clever mystery is reason enough to keep pages turning, the novel’s writing remains its greatest asset. Employing a tone that affects the style of Victorian literature and the Conan Doyle stories, but without the stiffness readers might associate with older fiction, the prose is a genuine delight (At one point, Harry observes: “Everywhere, everywhere, were people, louder, looser and yes, happier than I was used to. Handsome and ugly, young and old, rich and poor. Dressed by Saville Row tailors, and sporting rags that made my own outfit seem like finery”). Furthermore, the characters conjure Holmes and Watson without belaboring the point or adopting a sense of smug superiority. Ross (Blood of the Prophet, 2016, etc.) provides two endlessly charming sleuths, and Harry’s womanhood adds new depth to familiar ground. All in all, there’s an impressive amount of detail and care packed into these pages, not only in references to the Holmes canon, but also in inventive storytelling and colorful portraiture of 19th-century New York.
An unexpected treat of a detective novel with a strong heroine, making Ross a name to look out for.