My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sherlock Holmes as a woman working under a man’s name. It’s brilliant in this quiet, understated way, and I loved it. It has none of the flash of recent, tv Sherlock adaptations, but feels perfect set in the original time period. Also, one of the things I loved in this (and had always disliked in tv versions) is that the police were allowed to do their job. They weren’t props to make Holmes look brilliant.
She is brilliant, but she isn’t a one woman police force, showing up Scotland Yard as incompetent despite their years of investigative experience. I love it, did I mention? =D And so, what happens when a smart mind is brought up in a woman’s body, in a family of upper class respectability? She probably doesn’t get indulged to the point of narcissism, and actually makes more of an effort to understand social rules. Because that’s what a brilliant person does when nothing is being handed to them. They learn the rules, so they can work around it.
Also, I adore how Thomas broke the Mycroft character into two people. One the shadowy government bureaucrat, the other a young woman whose misanthropism is a natural extension of her own anxieties and self-perception. Now, I’ve read some reviews rueing the lack of romance in the book, but I have to admit that this may well turn out to be my favourite Sherry Thomas romance of all time. There is something so gripping about a deep connection that can’t be consummated, feelings that must be repressed. And it’s a lot more fun to read about such a relationship when all the restraint is on the part of the man, while the woman refuses to pretend the feelings don’t exist. But yes, that’s only a minor part of this book.
This is a mystery in the vein of the original Conan Doyle stories. I’m happy to have a historical series that I can look forward to for the criminal cases it deals with. The human connections Thomas plumbs in the book makes it a gripping read. I’m so glad she didn’t just do a gender swap on Holmes. Thomas built Charlotte up with the original Holmes’ mind but with a completely different set of rules and expectations that she had to maneuver around. She dealt with it as an independent, restless soul as Holmes would, but Thomas allowed mistakes and errors in judgement to be part of Charlotte’s journey — and that in the end was what made this such an enthralling read (and listen: the audiobook is excellent!).