RogerBW's Blog

Murder on Cold Street, Sherry Thomas 05 April 2021

2020 mystery story, fifth of the Lady Sherlock series. Inspector Treadles, the Lestrade of this parallel Sherlock setup, is found in a room with two dead men, one of them the supposed lover of his wife. Everyone assumes he did it, and he won't speak up in his defence. Charlotte Holmes to the rescue!

After the caper story of book four, we're back in mystery territory here, with a truly satisfying multi-part puzzle about just who went into the house when and what they did there. And, of course, why, with causes spreading out across multiple households and events, all focused into this one house on this one night.

It's a splendid piece of plot-wrangling – and it's accompanied by interesting characters, both series regulars returning and an array of newcomers. This setting tries to be historical in terms of the rights of women, while showing the various ways in which they can try to live something like their own lives in spite of cultural and legal constraints.

The language is occasionally clumsy, as when "The press enjoys the narrative involving Inspector Treadles in the narrative" (one of the signs of word-processed writing without a read-through afterwards), or the continuing use of "alit" whenever someone gets out of a carriage – yes, not technically wrong, but distracting each time it comes up. This London doesn't ever feel quite like the real London I know, but then it is a century and more in the past even if most of the buildings are the same…

There's little development of the various larger elements, but this book stands well on its own and I look forward to the next (due out later this year).

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Previous in series: The Art of Theft | Series: Lady Sherlock

  1. Posted by J Michael Cule at 01:19pm on 07 April 2021

    Yes, but...

    Just why did Inspector Treadles do that long list of things that made finding out what was going on so hard? Why was he so...

    Never mind. Despite the pleasure I got from this (I read this far in the series, didn't I?) I still feel there's too high an index of 'idiot behaviour required' in the plot.

    Unlike you I have no aversion to 'alit' but the occasions when the dialogue slides into 21st Century American is striking. 'Antsy' to describe Miss Holmes reaction to being hugged in the last book, for example.

    I'm thinking of setting up as a proofreader for American writers, especially those who have never visited Britain but insist on writing period pieces set in the UK.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 01:26pm on 07 April 2021

    I don't recall your having mentioned this series to me. This is as far as they go for now.

    The multi-partness of the puzzle is because each person involved did (or tried to do) a thing, then took whatever steps seemed to them to be needed to conceal their involvement. And of course some of it is "otherwise the plot wouldn't work", particularly Treadles' utter silence probably to the point of allowing himself to be convicted in order to protect his wife… when he has no reason to suppose that his conviction would protect his wife!

    "Antsy" is first attested in 1838, but I agree it's an Americanism.

    I've made that offer a few times, but I think many American writers realise they're writing primarily for an American audience and think it may be more important not to be disconcertingly different from other books than to be correct, whether it's in use of language or in period or geographical detail. But if you get this endeavour going I'd love to be a part of it.

  3. Posted by J Michael Cule at 03:31pm on 07 April 2021

    No, I read it through over the past few days off the back of your recommendation. I find some of the Inspector's behaviour ridiculous even given his being a recovering Chivalrous Male Chauvinist. I won't go into details because I can't be arsed to rot13 it.

    As to the Great British Advice Bureau I feel a blog post coming on if I can only get tonight's FATE game sorted first.

    (1838? Really? I must look it up.)

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