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Set against the fog-shrouded backdrop of turn-of-the-century London, Gregory Harris’s new historical mystery series introduces tenacious sleuth Colin Pendragon, and a case that illuminates the darkness lurking in the heart of one of England’s most noble families.
When a carriage bearing the Arnifour family crest–a vulture devouring a slaughtered lamb–arrives at the Kensington home of Colin Pendragon, it is an ominous beginning to a perplexing new case. Lady Arnifour’s husband has been beaten to death and her niece, Elsbeth, left in a coma. Is the motive passion, revenge, or something even more sinister? Police suspicions have fallen on the groundskeeper and his son, yet the Earl’s widow is convinced of their innocence.
Even as Colin and his partner Ethan Pruitt delve into the muddy history of the Arnifour family, a young street urchin begs their help in finding his missing sister. Ethan, regrettably familiar with London’s underbelly, urges caution, yet Colin’s interest is piqued. And in a search that wends from the squalid opium dens of the East End to the salons of Embassy Row, the truth about these seemingly disparate cases will prove disquieting, dangerous, and profoundly unexpected… .
First off, this book will be appreciated by those who like gay mysteries, especially the historical kind, and are fine with diving into a *very Sherlock-inspired* mystery that has little to no heat between the detective and his live-in lover who also helps him solve crimes on the dark gritty streets of Victorian London.
I didn’t know what to make of Colin, to be honest. This is VERY MUCH an homage to Sherlock Holmes, but an homage where Sherlock and Watson were together, like together-together, albeit under the radar since this is Victorian England.
In this homage, Sherlock is named Colin Pendragon, who is the brilliant and handsome son of a high-ranking government official, is in his late 30’s, solves mysteries, has a cranky woman who runs his house (who is NOT named Mrs. Hudson), and who lives with his lover, Watson, but in this case, Watson is named Ethan, and is NOT from the military, but is from a well-to-do family that had fallen on hard times and had been an opium addict in his youth. Sometime in his terrible drug-addled travels, he was rescued from that life in the slums by Colin, and they have been together for over a decade.
That is all hinted backstory, and you only get a few glimpses when Ethan angsts about his past and falling back into his addiction, especially when their current case of solving an Earl’s murder takes them to a local opium den to find answers.
I didn’t know which Sherlock Harris was most tapping into, and I am not a Sherlock scholar since I think I only made it through the Hound of Baskervilles way back in my teens. Colin is very arrogant and rude, which made me ponder this Sherlock.
But he is also very handsome and athletic, features described in the text by his random habit of lifting dumb bells and doing pushups in the middle of a conversation, participating in fighting matches, and also having women literally fawn over him (while they side-eye Ethan with a “What’s HE doing here?” air.
Which made me ponder this Sherlock, since that version had some of the fighting, and Colin is mentioned to be shorter and more strapping/broad.
I also got the feeling that he was a bit of a Marty Stu, but maybe I’m just annoyed by characters who are brilliant and excessively attractive, who are fawned over by women, and who are really unlikeable. I didn’t understand why Ethan stuck around him, and assumed they must have some killer back-story with the whole getting-rescued-from-opium-den-youth.
Colin and Ethan as adults in their 30’s were a little dull, and I almost would have preferred a story set when they started their relationship, just to see how that happened, as opposed to the worn, comfort level that they are at now.
How was the mystery? It wasn’t bad. It kept me guessing, and is really very cozy and a closed-room mystery. Only a few minor thrills here, and I would have been much more involved in there was a dash or three more excitement, but if you like cozy, closed-room mysteries, this should be an interesting read. There were definitely some twists I hadn’t expected, so kudos for that.
What drove me nuts: There were a couple words I really wished the author stopped using, including:
Colin and Ethan snicker and smirk A LOT, as well as chortle, tease, roll their eyes, and drolly say things, and I found it hard to picture these two men in their mid-to-late 30’s smirking and snickering this much. It made it hard for me to take them seriously, especially when it would lead with a line of dialogue, which I would imagine them saying seriously, and then end with the tag of “I snickered” or “Colin smirked,” and I’d get kicked out of the scene as I now imagine these men laughing about. I wanted to cull all those tags out.
The romance is very low-heat. Seriously, don’t go in looking for a smoochfest between Sherlock and Watson, because you will be disappointed. I almost wondered if their love was subtext until a non-explicit, fade-to-black bath scene. There are a few mentions, and a few touches, but very low heat. In that way, it might be more in the Doyle style, but the romance-fan in me wished for a little more, especially since I hoped for Colin to be a little more human and caring in a way that showed why Ethan stuck around.
But if you like mysteries, especially those that are Sherlock-esque, then I’d say try it and see what you think. I got my copy at the library! That was a nice bonus, so I recommend also checking your library or if they don’t have it, asking if they’d purchase it. I also noticed that this volume is part of the Kindle Unlimited plan, for those using that.