Serena’s Review: “A Tempest at Sea”

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Book: “A Tempest at Sea” by Sherry Thomas

Publishing Info: Berkley, March 2023

Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: After feigning her own death in Cornwall to escape from Moriarty’s perilous attention, Charlotte Holmes goes into hiding. But then she receives a tempting offer: Find a dossier the crown is desperately seeking to recover, and she might be able to go back to a normal life.

Her search leads her aboard the RMS Provence, sailing from Southampton for the eastern hemisphere. But on the night Charlotte makes her move to retrieve the dossier, in the midst of a terrifying storm in the Bay of Biscay, a brutal murder also takes place on the ship.

Instead of solving the crime, as she is accustomed to doing, Charlotte must take care not to be embroiled in this investigation, lest it become known to those who harbor ill intentions that Sherlock Holmes is abroad and still very much alive.

Previously Reviewed: “A Study in Scarlet Women” and “A Conspiracy in Belgravia” and “The Hollow of Fear” and “The Art of Theft” and “Murder on Cold Street” and “Miss Moriarty, I Presume?”

Review: I’m always so excited when I see another book coming out in Sherry Thomas’s “Charlotte Holmes” series. While I’ve had favorites throughout the series so far, I’ve never disliked any books in this series. They’ve all been smart, and Charlotte Holmes always comes through with the insightful goods. But I was especially looking forward to this book given the way the previous one ended with Charlotte faking her own death to escape Moriarty. Where would this next book go if Charlotte has to be in hiding?

Life in hiding is not the life for her, Charlotte Holmes as quickly decided. So when she’s offered protection from Moriarty if she helps locate a missing piece of information, she jumps at the opportunity. Soon enough, her mission finds her book passage on a ship alongside several friends and foes alike. What seems like a simple enough mission to search a few cabins and locate the dossier quickly becomes overshadowed when a murder takes place on the ship. Now the investigation into the murder could expose Charlotte to the minions of Moriarty unless she can solve the case first.

I always really enjoy closed circle mysteries, that is, those where a murder takes place and all of the suspects are contained within a location that they cannot leave. Not only does it quickly reduce the number of suspects to a small-ish number, but these types of mysteries often involve a lot of complicated relationships between all of these characters as well as the victim. So this book, with its setting of a small, luxury ship is a perfect example of this sort of mystery and Thomas takes full advantage.

I also really liked that this book contains a mystery within a mystery. It starts with what should be a straight-forward search for a missing dossier. But that quickly gets subsumed by the murder mystery that threatens to ruin all of Charlotte and co.’s good work and expose Charlotte to the eyes of the Moriarty minion they are sure is tracing their footsteps. Both mysteries were incredibly clever on their own, but the way that they wove in and out of one another was truly impressive. Because so many people are working different angles with their own very distinct agendas, it’s a constant puzzle trying to piece together who knows what and whose team (or any team!) they are on.

This book also adds an interesting layer by jumping back and forth in time from the ongoing investigation to events that transpired during the night of the murder itself. This tactic worked so well! There were only three or so of these jumps back to the past, but each one, in only a small number of pages, manages to take the entire mystery so far and then turn it at a new angle, making everything suddenly look different with new suspects all around. It was very effective and always added an extra little zing of interest to the story.

I also really liked the small bits that we got from Charlotte and Lord Ingram. Their relationship has always been solidly a second tier plotline to the main mystery, which I think is probably for the best given the complexity of the murder mysteries and the types of characters that Charlotte and Lord Ingram are. However, while we still don’t get a lot of time with them here, there were some very sweet moments between the two. Slowly, slowly, we see this relationship continue to develop as both Charlotte and Lord Ingram grow into this new romance and must grapple with their own emotions.

I really enjoyed this latest installment in this series. I thought all of the side characters were excellent, with a good mixture of “villains” that were fun to hate on and new sympathetic characters you wanted to root for. On top of that, there was a good balance of important moments for our regular cast of characters. This is a solid entry all around, and I think fans of the series will likely be pleased.

Rating: Thomas takes the closed-circle mystery concept and brings in Charlotte Holmes to crack the case wide open!

Reader’s Advisory:

“A Tempest at Sea” isn’t currently on any Goodreads lists, but it should be on Sherlock Holmes Reimaginings and Retellings.

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