What if the word’s most famous (and eccentric) Victorian detective were a young gentlewoman in the midst of a scandal?
Gender bending is just the first sign that unusual happenings are afoot in this origin story for a revamped Sherlock Holmes series by bestselling author Thomas (The Perilous Sea, 2015, etc.). The novel begins in 1886 England with the foreshadowing of a suspicious death, but the incident is only one of many seemingly unrelated events that form a pattern over the succeeding chapters. Weaving them together is amateur sleuth Charlotte Holmes, who is also an inadvertent participant in them due to a social catastrophe she precipitated for personal reasons. The novel is peopled with characters who warm the reader with a glow of recognition—Watson, Lestrade, Mycroft, and Moriarty all appear in some form—but Thomas also imbues them with personalized histories and characteristics. Holmes herself is cast in the mold of the recent television incarnations of Conan Doyle’s savant as well as Deanna Raybourn’s detectives, Lady Julia Grey and Veronica Speedwell—with an added devotion to food that lends her an unexpected charm. There is also a tantalizing, slow-burn love story between Holmes and a longtime friend befitting Thomas' skills as a romance novelist. The mystery itself is conducted long distance and through a trick necessitated by the gender-flipping; while competently handled, its intricacy is less gripping than the gradual reveal of a new Holmes-ian world and its inhabitants. The ground has been laid well for future incidents in the professional and intimate life of Charlotte Holmes.
For fans of etiquette-flouting heroines who desire truth while being true to their desires—gastronomic, romantic, and cerebral.