Book Review: ‘A Conspiracy In Belgravia’ Is Not A Romance And Fails To Impress

Review by Adrina Palmer

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.

I dropped into book two of Sherry Thomas’ The Lady Sherlock Series without an introduction to book one. Thomas made this easy to do as she walked her reader through the lead-in with ease. From there the book lost my interest. I found myself needing to get up for a cup of coffee, a quick game on my phone, or pretty much anything to distract me from the rather mundane plot. First, I expected a romance based on the mysterious woman on the front cover. With Sherlock and conspiracy in the title, I was hoping for a rather amusing mystery. The protagonist is above romance despite having once loved a man. The mystery angle was a bit of a let down as well. I should let you know, historical romance is not my preferred genre. If I were to read a book of this genre I would lean toward ‘Outlander,’ something that toes the line of reality. Please take my opinions with a grain of salt if you find this to be your preferred category.

Charlotte Holmes left home in book one. Society shunned her pursuit of freedom as a proper unwed girl who belonged at home with daddy dearest. To fill her hours, she lent herself to the locals as Sherlock Holmes, due to her excellent powers of deduction. This was the best part of the book. The taciturn Charlotte was quite gifted in her ability to figure out a person based on a few crumbs on their clothing or other such benign clues. An enviable gift. The rest of Charlotte’s personality, her immature people skills and penchant for ogling her multiple chins, left much to be desired. Though many women would be equally mesmerized by the many biscuits and sweets mentioned in the book that led to the protagonists double and triple chins, was it necessary to mention the chins and sweets so many times? Her deep affections for her spinster sister Livia and mentally handicapped sister Bernadine are wholesome qualities but I would not choose to befriend this particular tight-lipped character.

Along with her friend Mrs. Watson and a few other ladies, Mrs. Holmes attempted to fool Londoners and claim her “brother,” Mr. Holmes, was sick in bed as she solved wearisome misdeeds on his behalf. Several cases cropped up for Charlotte to solve but the most prevalent was that of one Lady Ingram, who happened to be the wife of Charlotte’s benefactor, friend, and first love. Mrs. Ingram had a first love as well, and since her marriage, she had an agreed upon time and place for an annual rendezvous to ensure the safety of her first love. When her love, Mr. Myron Finch, failed to show up for the yearly meeting, Lady Ingram sought Charlotte’s help in locating Mr. Finch for the purpose of confirming he was still alive. To add intrigue, Mr. Finch happened to also be Charlotte’s illegitimate brother whom she has never met.

While working on the latter case, Charlotte also wrestled with a proposal from Lord Ingram’s brother, and an unidentified body. Holmes was also consulted on a case of a woman who believed she was poisoned by the maid, along with her skittish sister Livia meeting a potential suitor with no name. Let’s stop, and go back to the unidentified body. Finally a plot twist worth reading about. The rest of the subplots made me feel like I was reading a game of Clue, and it was the maid, in the conservatory, with a candlestick. Sadly, the body failed to drive the plot forward because the focus continued to shift back to the tedious problems that belong more in a woman’s journal than in a mystery novel. Thomas just had the protagonist glance over the dead body before moving on to a more internal introspection into how and why the body came to be.

The only interesting aspect of this novel was a series of clues coupled with a cipher handed to Charlotte from her would be fiancé. Finally, a man who knew women had a brain back in the 1800s! Marry me, but first, let me show you I am aware there are more than rocks in the beautiful double chinned head of yours! Charlotte must solve all the little cases stacked up on her writing desk and decide if she can, in fact, be the wife of her first love’s brother. She managed to wrap up all the loose ends and even turn the ends into a beautiful Victorian bow in time for tea. I found the whole package to be a little too neat and tidy, especially when I found the book to lack relevant information showing how there are any connections between the cases besides London as the location.

I am assuming the “my brother is Sherlock Holmes” aspect of the novel was more hyped up in the first book in the series (‘A Study in Scarlett Women’) as this aspect was downplayed in book two. Either way, Mr. Holmes fails to induce page turning on my part, and this book is no exception. Some aspects of the novel made little sense, which could be because I missed the first book in the series. Some clues that failed to register, a few characters who kept appearing, nothing serious but annoying to read about as they did little to drive the plot. Overall, ‘A Conspiracy in Belgravia’ felt like a book panned on me by a well-meaning teacher with a rigid syllabus. Not one worth complaining about but not worth getting excited about either. Although, there were several words in the book I did not know and let me tell you, having to look up a word in the dictionary excites me.

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James McDonald
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