RogerBW's Blog

The Hollow of Fear, Sherry Thomas 03 June 2019

2018 mystery story, third of the Lady Sherlock series. Charlotte Holmes continues to act as a consulting detective, but this time she must solve the murder of Lady Ingram, found on her estranged husband's estate. And Charlotte, known to be a Fallen Woman, has been seen in Lord Ingram's company…

I call this a mystery, because that's the outward form, but on finishing this I realised that it was closer to being a caper story: towards the end there are several flashbacks which make it clear just how much the perceptions of the police (and the reader) have been orchestrated by the principals in order to produce the desired results.

And so while one can speculate during the book about what might be happening, this isn't the sort of mystery where you can get all the answers before the detectives do. Characterisation is much more important; and experience has shown that when I can't have both solid characters and a totally fair-play puzzle story, I prefer the former.

So the body is found in the ice-house, amid various shenanigans which might seem to indicate a particular murderer, but that would be very stupid and that person isn't stupid, unless he's doing that to avoid suspicion because everyone would assume that if he were the murderer he'd have done it more cleverly… but really, what's more important is what goes on with Charlotte (in various disguises), Lord Ingram, and Inspector Treadles, each of them dealing with various unexpected problems as well as the obvious ones; and there are side considerations too, like two society gossips and their motivation for acting as they do.

It's certainly not perfect; it has that same feeling of slight wrongness that one often finds in American Regencies. But I found it worth getting past that, because the practical storytelling is really very fine indeed. (Don't start here, though; ideally read the whole series, but at least book 2 before this one.)

To be followed by The Art of Theft.

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