RogerBW's Blog

The Art of Theft, Sherry Thomas 14 November 2020

2019 mystery story, fourth of the Lady Sherlock series. Charlotte Holmes continues to act as a consulting detective, this time acting to recover some blackmail-grade letters from an old flame of Mrs Watson. But of course there's much more going on than that.

This volume is an unashamed caper story: casing the joint, laying plans, and doing the unexpected when the situation changes. And it's done without flashback, the lazy filmmaker's way of explaining for the hard of thinking what the real plan was all the time.

I still enjoy the characters, though after what seemed like some possibility of resolution in the matter of Charlotte's romantic life last book this one goes out of its way to throw in opposition not only to her but to other potential couples; it felt forced, dragging things out in order to raise the tension for a possible happy ending at a later date, rather than arising from the people and the way they think. But I like happy endings, I don't feel that unresolved sexual tension must stay unresolved to be interesting, and I may be reading too much into this reversal of fortune.

Meanwhile the nature of the caper shifts as more information is gathered, as does that of the probable opposition, until a relatively unprepared team is going up against distinctly competent enemies. Of course, more than one party can stack a deck. The action is solid, taking appropriate account of everyone's capabilities, and Holmes herself is always enjoyable. Some modern political sensibilities are put into the mouths of people who might reasonably have expressed them at the time, rather than all the good guys glibly holding the right modern opinions or historical injustices simply being ignored, the more usual solutions to this problem.

The story within this book worked well for me, but the long-term development suffered compared with the last one; a blatant cliffhanger ending doesn't improve my impression. Still, I'll continue with the series.

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Previous in series: The Hollow of Fear | Series: Lady Sherlock | Next in series: Murder on Cold Street

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