Skip to main content

Review | A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas

It's been a full year of delicious anticipation, this waiting for the second volume in Sherry Thomas' delightful Lady Sherlock series. I thoroughly enjoyed A Study in Scarlet Women last year, and I had just a really good gut feeling about where the sequel would take my favorite characters—from the absolutely flawlessly rendered Charlotte Holmes and the impenetrable Lord Ingram, to Mrs. Watson, Livia and Bernadine Holmes, and poor, beleaguered Inspector Treadles. I was so pleased to be back in their company once more when I finally cracked open my copy of A Conspiracy in Belgravia and commenced reading.

It took her awhile, but now Charlotte is living in something more akin to the manner she would prefer. Together with her companion Mrs. Watson (and Mrs. Watson's irrepressible niece and aspiring physician Miss Redmayne), Charlotte is becoming extremely well-versed in the solving of all things mysterious around London. The only black marks on her new life are the distance she is forced to maintain from her sisters Livia and Bernadine and the mutual distance she and Lord Ingram force themselves to maintain from each other. The entire delicate balance is thoroughly upended, however, when none other than Lady Ingram herself requests a consultation with the increasingly infamous Sherlock Holmes. It is a matter of some delicacy, according to Lady Ingram, concerning a young man she once loved. A man she passes once every year at an agreed upon time and place to assure one another of the other's continued safety and devotion from afar. But the man missed their silent rendezvous this year, and Lady Ingram will know the reason why. And so Charlotte finds herself in the most untenable position of investigating on behalf of her oldest and dearest friend's estranged wife, and doing so behind his back. And just when she thinks this case cannot possibly get more personal, it does, and there is absolutely no hope of turning back.
Charlotte rarely resorted to imagination—observation yielded far better results. And while the world was made up of innumerable moving parts, in her own personal life she saw no reason why decisions shouldn't be simple, especially since most choices were binary: more butter on the muffin or not, run away from home or not, accept a man's offer of marriage or not.
I love Charlotte a little beyond reason. She is everything I could have wanted in a female incarnation of the inimitable Holmes. As a matter of face, every single character was in fine form in this their second adventure together, particularly Livia—who is an absolute treasure. Her relationship with Charlotte, the ways in which they are each hobbled by the most personal and daunting aspects of their lives, and the ways in which they quietly reach out to each other as sisters were extremely affecting. The longing and the loyalty between these two sisters who have dealt with their nightmarish parents in such drastically different ways played out in beautiful contrast. And, okay, while we're on the subject of longing, can I just say that I thought the quiet moments between Charlotte and Lord Ingram in the first book were exquisite. The scenes between them in this one sent me careening over the emotional edge. Just one of the impossibly poignant interactions between Charlotte and Lord Ingram:
Soundlessly his fingers tapped the crest rail on which they rested, each one by turn. "Years ago, you said something to me. I don't remember it word for word, but in essence, you told me that men, even otherwise sensible men, fall under the illusion that they will be able to find a perfect woman. That the problem lies not in the search so much as in the definition of perfection, which is a beautiful female who will integrate seamlessly into a man's life, bringing with her exactly the right amount of intelligence, wit, and interests to align with his, in order to brighten every aspect of his existence."

She remembered that conversation, one of the most disharmonious they had ever held, on the subject of the future Lady Ingram.

"You warned me against believing in the illusion—and I was highly displeased. I didn't say so at the time, but as we parted, I thought that you'd certainly never be mistaken for a perfect woman. It was beyond evident you'd never fit readily into any man's life, and no one could possibly think that the purpose of your life was to be anything other than who you were. At the time, those were not kind thoughts. They flew about my head with a great deal of scorn—venom, even. My opinion of you hasn't changed, by the way. But nowadays I think those same thoughts with much resignation but even more admiration." Their eyes met again. His were still the same mysterious green, but now there was a warmth to them, a deep affection tinged, as he said, with much resignation but even more admiration. "I'm sure I'll fly off the handle and accuse you of all kinds of perfidy once I learn what you've been up to, but let it not be said that I don't know who I'm dealing with. We disagree often, and that is a fact of our friendship.
I could have cried at them, you guys. Over and over again, I could have. But I chose to wait until this small moment to actually let the tears slip out:
Thank you for listening to me, by the way," she said, "when you didn't wish to hear a single word."

He would always listen, when she had something to say. That he did not voice aloud, because she already knew.
I feel compelled to note just how emotionally astute this novel is. It is one of its most important qualities. The ring of quiet truth kept rolling over me in waves throughout my reading experience. And, yes, much of it Charlotte's undeniable acumen. But much of it is Ms. Thomas' ability to let a scene unfold in its own time. No moments are rushed. No dialogue is off in the slightest. As Charlotte notes at a certain point, "The old silence threatened to descend." An ever-present sense of the weight of one's personal history, of the quiet, but inexorable accumulation of a life's worth of decisions, their provenance, and their consequences, pervades this story in achingly beautiful ways. The different levels of haunting are delicately explored, in both the coils of the investigation and the ties that bind each character together. I so appreciated this book's subtlety and its increasingly nuanced ruminations on what it means to know someone and to be known by them, to see as we are seen. Sherry Thomas carries the whole thing off just splendidly. This is a sequel to behold. A sequel for the books, as it were. Never think of missing it.

Buy
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

Comments

You Might Also Like

Interview with Alexandra Bracken + Brightly Woven Giveaway!

I fell in love with the cover of Alexandra Bracken's debut novel--Brightly Woven--last fall and the scant synopses I could find at the time certainly piqued my interest. After managing to get my hands on an ARC, I found myself surprised and pleased with this unique fantasy. You can read my review here. As the release date approached, I invited Alex to participate in an interview and giveaway here on the site and, despite her crazy busy schedule, she kindly accepted. Enjoy! First things first: When did the idea for Brightly Wovenfirst hit you and what (if anything) did you know right off the bat? I remember the exact moment it hit me—what I was doing, who I was talking to, what song was playing on iTunes.  :)  I had just come back from Winter Break my sophomore year in college and was sitting on my bed chatting with my mom.  Sophomore year was pretty remarkable in terms of the insane weather that we had in Virginia (where I was in school) but it had also been a bizarre year in Arizon…

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend me Your Recs

Guys. We are going on a trip―a trip we have been planning for years. And it is finally happening next week! We're going to visit my parents in France, and we are taking the whole gang. Or rather, all three kids but not the dog. Who I am desperately sad about leaving and really hope he doesn't think we've up and given him to another family and proceed to forget all about us. It's just two weeks. But we've never left him that long before, and I am obviously emotional about it. Have I posted pics of Sodapop here before? I'm not sure that I ever have. Here he is on the day we got him: And here he is now in his natural habitat, which is to say in my library on laundry day: Ahem. 
The actual point of this post is to get your reading recs for the trip! I'm completely torn over which physical books to take with me. Yes, I realize most of my reading will be done on my Kindle by necessity, but I always have to have some physical copies with me. For both safety and I…

Blog Tour Giveaway | An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber

Today marks the release of An Artless Demise―the seventh installment in Anna Lee Huber's excellent Lady Darby mystery series. I'm happy to be participating in the blog tour with a giveaway courtesy of Berkley. This is a series I've enjoyed from the very beginning (you can read my review of the first book here). Be sure that Kiera and Gage are well worth your time, particularly if you are a fan of Deanna Raybourn or Tasha Alexander.

ABOUT THE BOOK Kiera’s return to London is anything but mundane after fleeing in infamy more than two years ago. While Kiera expected the whispers and murmurs inspired by her reappearance, she wasn’t prepared to receive a letter of blackmail, threatening to divulge the secrets of her past and implicating her in crimes she didn’t commit. A gang of body snatchers is arrested on suspicion of killing people from the streets and selling the bodies to medical schools, and Kiera is a perfect suspect for their crimes―after all, she was previously married…