The Art of Theft (The Lady Sherlock Series)

Written by Sherry Thomas
Review by Jackie Drohan

Latest in the Charlotte Holmes, Lady Sherlock series, The Art of Theft discovers a detailed and engaging mystery with the consistently readable style that has made the author a success. Set again in Victorian England, Charlotte Holmes is engaged to retrieve, through “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” her public persona, priceless artwork containing secrets critical to a foreign ruler and close friend of Charlotte’s associate, Mrs. Watson. The case is unique, and Charlotte meets social resistance and doubt with her characteristic self-confident persistence.  She engages the help of most of the broad cast of characters so endearing to readers of her past novels, including Charlotte’s friend and suitor Lord Ingram, sister Livia, and the Marbleton family – perpetually incognito and on the run from their arch-nemesis, Moriarty. The plot winds toward its climax at a Christmas ball in a glamorous chateau in France, where the artwork awaits its pending sale and potential catastrophe for Watson’s royal friend.

Thomas does an admirable job of unobtrusively orienting readers in the extended series plotline while hooking their attention from the outset, although the novel may be a bit longer on exposition of the characters’ personality and motives than a Conan Doyle reader might be used to. Despite the charming inversions of the original characters, both in gender and social rank, Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series is far more than fan fiction, and exhibits a style and narrative pace that is all her own. We gain a deep dive understanding of Charlotte’s family roots, influences, conflicts and disappointments. The mystery unfolds in a manner that is appealingly specific, unhurried and heuristic.  We experience the narrative from a subjective and refreshingly female perspective. Recommended reading.