Book: “Miss Moriarty, I Presume?” by Sherry Thomas
Publishing Info: Berkley Books, November 2021
Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+
Book Description: A most unexpected client shows up at Charlotte Holmes’s doorstep: Moriarty himself. Moriarty fears that tragedy has befallen his daughter and wants Charlotte to find out the truth.
Charlotte and Mrs. Watson travel to a remote community of occult practitioners where Moriarty’s daughter was last seen, a place full of lies and liars. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s sister Livia tries to make sense of a mysterious message from her beau Mr. Marbleton. And Charlotte’s longtime friend and ally Lord Ingram at last turns his seductive prowess on Charlotte–or is it the other way around?
But the more secrets Charlotte unravels about Miss Moriarty’s disappearance, the more she wonders why Moriarty has entrusted this delicate matter to her of all people. Is it merely to test Charlotte’s skills as an investigator, or has the man of shadows trapped her in a nest of vipers?
Review: I was extra excited for this book (beyond my typical excitement for any book by Sherry Thomas) when I saw the title. Moriarty has been a player in most all of the books so far, but he’s always been in the background. “The Art of Theft” was the closet we got, and we still never actually saw the character on the page. But with a Moriarty, if not the Moriarty referenced in the title, we had to finally see the character, now right?
Charlotte and her friends have known that Moriarty’s attention has been turning towards them for some time. What she didn’t expect was for Moriarty himself to turn up on her doorstep, ostensibly to hire her for a job of his own. But Charlotte suspects that Moriarty is rarely the type of man to not attempt to kill (perhaps quite literally) two birds with one stone. So when she and Mrs. Watson head out to locate Moriarty’s wayward daughter, she’s on alert for signs of other purposes. She soon discovers that the apple does not fall far from the tree, and the disappeared Miss Moriarty seems to have had as many secrets and alternative motives as her dangerous sire. With potentially two Moriarties on the board, will Charlotte be up to the task of outmaneuvering them all?
I think it’s rather unfortunate that the book description itself confirms that Moriarty is, indeed, in this book. He shows up early enough (quite, quite early in fact) that it’s not a drawn out wait for the reader wondering when he’ll arrive. And even then, it’s still thrilling seeing Thomas’s rendering of this classic villain. I probably shouldn’t be surprised by this fact. One of the things that has most stood-out in this version of Sherlock Holmes is the creativity Thomas has had with re-imagining these characters. They are all very unique from the originals, and yet there are just enough tidbits included to make them instantly recognizable. It’s not just gender-swapping, the most simple of changes. Moriarty, too, gets this treatment. Here, his abilities are more differentiated from Charlotte’s. It’s clear that he is also a mastermind, but his particular skills are different than hers. Her ability to observe and reason are without comparison, even to Moriarty. For his part, he has a magnetic presence that he wields like a scalpel. Even Charlotte feels the threat of it. It was such a clever twist on the character, giving him a coiled, snake-like feeling and allowing the threat he poses to seep out of the pages.
I also really enjoyed this mystery on its own. It’s always nice when our group has to travel outside of London and into new settings. The remote community they travel to is filled with interesting (and suspicious) characters. And the setting itself, with its imposing walls and buildings filled with occult imagery were perfect landscapes for our heroes to travel through. With so many new characters and moving parts, it was difficult to grasp all of the mysteries at hand. I was able to figure out one of the central secrets, which has been a rare thing for me with this series, as I’m mostly completely in the dark still by the time we get to the reveals. But there were still a number of plots and twists that I didn’t fully untangle myself and were exciting to see come to fruition.
The over-arching problem I’ve had with this series has sometimes been the lack of use for all of its character. They tend to move forward and backward in prominence as the story requires, something that largely works. However, Livia is one of the constants as a POV character, and I do think she would be better served to move forward and backward like the other more secondary characters. Often, her plots have been the ones I struggle with, and here, too, that was my one hold-up in not completely enjoying this story. Her storyline seemed to exist almost solely disconnected from the rest of the action, and I always found myself becoming impatient with her sections. Part of me simply struggles to become truly attached to this character, for whatever reason. .
But that said, I still feel like this was one of the strongest outings in the series yet. Obviously, finally seeing Moriarty in person was a huge step. And the book also takes a few massive swerves that will have a lasting impact on any books in the future. Fans of this series are sure to enjoy this one and shouldn’t hesitate to pick it up!
Rating 9: Our classic villain finally arrives and with him a game-changer of a story!