A Study in Darkness by Emma Jane Holloway – review

By on October 30, 2013


Publisher’s Description:

When a bomb goes off at 221B Baker Street, Evelina Cooper is thrown into her Uncle Sherlock’s world of mystery and murder. But just when she thought it was safe to return to the ballroom, old, new, and even dead enemies are clamoring for a place on her dance card.

Before Evelina’s even unpacked her gowns for a country house party, an indiscretion puts her in the power of the ruthless Gold King, who recruits her as his spy. He knows her disreputable past and exiles her to the rank alleyways of Whitechapel with orders to unmask his foe.

As danger mounts, Evelina struggles between hiding her illegal magic and succumbing to the darker aspects of her power. One path keeps her secure; the other keeps her alive. For rebellion is brewing, a sorcerer wants her soul, and no one can protect her in the hunting ground of Jack the Ripper.

What I expected:  I read this based on the fact that I had enjoyed the first book of the series – the characters and the world building.  I did not read the blurb before starting the book, so was not expecting a Jack the Ripper tale.  I pretty much expected to read more of Evalina’s discreet sort of detective work and her magichanical tinkering (yes, I just made that word up, feel free to steal it for your own use).

What I got:  I got what I expected but in a much more grim frame.  The title moving from Silks to Darkness is a big clue here that I completely missed.  Not only is everyone hurting mentally from the events of the first book, but they also have to get on with their now very changed lives, which means dealing with people whom they do not necessarily respect or like.  Add in the even grimmer aspect of serial murder, and the entire book takes on a very somber atmosphere.

What I enjoyed:  I definitely enjoyed the two concurrent mysteries being pursued by Evalina as well as the parts of the story involving the pirates (oh, yes, there are pirates, being led by a familiar character; definitely a favorite part).  I like that Evalina, while getting put into unusual situations, at least tries to consider all of the implications sensibly.  I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether she then acts sensibly.

What I did not:  It felt to me that there were parts that seemed like either filler or explanations that were not needed, creating unnecessary scenes.  There were also a couple of places where I felt that the characters were not acting to suit themselves but the plot, especially with regards to the (should have been) now defunct love triangle.

Cover talk:  I like how the covers are conforming to a noticeable style with similar elements and colors.  I would not consider this great art, but it advertises the book well, giving the potential reader continuity with the previous book and a look at the atmosphere and elements of the book itself.

Recommendation:  Definitely recommended to those who read and enjoyed the first book as well as any who like historical mysteries with a bit of fantasy thrown in.  I’d warn any newcomers, though, the second book relies heavily upon events of the first, and while it can be read alone, it works much smoother as a sequel, so start at the first book.

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