RogerBW's Blog

Miss Moriarty, I Presume?, Sherry Thomas 25 January 2022

2021 mystery story, sixth of the Lady Sherlock series. Charlotte Holmes finds herself employed by Moriarty himself, to investigate the situation of his estranged daughter. But nothing is as it appears.

There are side stories as well, because this is a series with a substantial cast most of whom have their own plots going on, but mostly this is Charlotte and Lord Ingram investigating a group of "Hermetists", i.e. occult believers in the days just before the Golden Dawn. (In fact this is set in 1887, about when that organisation was founded by splitters from the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia; and unlike the real occult organisations of that date, it is neither an offshoot of Freemasonry nor trying to appear Christian. Which is a bit out of place – a well-informed time-traveller would certainly be put on the alert – but doesn't break the story.)

And it's a good puzzle, where even the number of factions in play is not at all clear, until it gets to the Big Deception – carefully heralded for the hard of thinking by a change of viewpoint, just in case you might fall for the lie that's very clearly being deliberately promulgated and be briefly made anxious before it's all explained. (Arthur bruised his upper arm.) It seems like an awful lot of setting-up to do for a false narrative that someone as clever as Moriarty has been shown to be wouldn't fall for for an instant, but apparently that's what we're meant to believe; I do hope that the next volume shows that it didn't work for an instant.

So the ending was a bit of a disappointment for me, but the earlier chapters stand up well, with a blend of progress for the principal characters with puzzles of personality more than of evidence. Definitely not a stand-alone book, though: previous books are important for background, and there are plenty of loose ends.

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