Book Review: “Murder on Cold Street,” by Sherry Thomas

It has been way too long since I have written a real review. After promising myself not to get into a slump, I lingered while reading Murder on Cold Street and took a full week to finish it. I am partly to blame – switching jobs, planning a wedding, and other life things have gotten in the way. However, sadly, Murder on Cold Street was also just not quite what I wanted it to be. After four impeccable books in the Lady Sherlock series, book 5 fell a little flat for me, and it is hard to pinpoint why.


From the Publisher:

Inspector Treadles, Charlotte Holmes’s friend and collaborator, has been found locked in a room with two dead men, both of whom worked with his wife at the great manufacturing enterprise she has recently inherited.

Rumors fly. Had Inspector Treadles killed the men because they had opposed his wife’s initiatives at every turn? Had he killed in a fit of jealous rage, because he suspected Mrs. Treadles of harboring deeper feelings for one of the men? To make matters worse, he refuses to speak on his own behalf, despite the overwhelming evidence against him.

Charlotte finds herself in a case strewn with lies and secrets. But which lies are to cover up small sins, and which secrets would flay open a past better left forgotten? Not to mention, how can she concentrate on these murders, when Lord Ingram, her oldest friend and sometime lover, at last dangles before her the one thing she has always wanted?

Murder on Cold Street, Sherry Thomas

What I Loved:

  • Mrs. Treadles. Mrs. Treadles was always mentioned in previous books as being Inspector Treadles’ business-minded wife that he had conflicting feelings about, but Murder on Cold Street is the first book we get to meet her. And wow, I wish she was in every book! Mrs. Treadles is a competent and confident woman who refuses to let the pigheaded men in her life tear her down, and who is also a devoted and loving wife that weather her husband’s shitty attitude, with them coming out the better on the other side. She is determined to get to the truth of her husband’s framing, and helps Holmes get to the right conclusions. She is right up there on the list of women I want to be friends with, with Mrs. Hudson and Miss Redmayne.
  • The Historical Context. One thing that is always consistently good about this series is how well Sherry Thomas incorporates the time period. There is coming out parties, calling cars, ciphers in the newspaper ads, and fake cancer medications. It has that turn of the century feel to it, with science on the rise but societal norms as strong as ever. Widows still wear mourning gear, wealthy families still go to the countryside for the off season, and the chemist still gives powders of odd natures. I oved the ciphers since it is not something that is often talked about from Victorian times, and I loved the scenes of tea because, let’s face it, I love tea and tea sandwiches.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • Lord Ingram and Charlotte Holmes. Normally, I cannot stand “will they, won’t they” couples in books; however, I have always felt that Ash Ingram and Charlotte had valid reasons for dancing around each other and never coming together. That all changed in book 4 (not spoiling it), and now Lord Ingram seems to want to dive right in, with Charlotte being the hesitant one. Now only is this an exact opposite characterization from the prior books, it also turned Charlotte into an insipid lovesick girl in Murder on Cold Street with Ash being dangerously close to smug for making her feel this way. Charlotte has always been closer to canon Sherlock Holmes in her characterization (aloof, unsympathetic, mildly on the spectrum), which allows her to deduce the more obscure clues. Here, she is distracted by Ash every time he is there, and I feel like the plot suffered for it.
  • The Mystery. This is both related and unrelated to Charlotte and Lord Ingram. From the onset, there was too much going on with this murder mystery. There were too many players involved despite it seeming to start as a closed universe, and the sheer amount of red herrings was confusing. The reveal of the murderer is uninspired and kind of undeserving of Holmes’s energy (except for exonerating Inspector Treadles), the new police inspector is a bit of a stereotype, and the “Big Reveal” in the end felt like a deliberate plot point to drive the next book. This is very off brand for Sherry Thomas, who has made the first four books feel delicately interconnected like a spider’s web, ensnaring the reader’s interest. Furthermore, Charlotte’s distraction with Ash shows in her reliance on her network instead of her deductions.

Conclusion:

This was not my favorite Lady Sherlock novel, and it shows. I am cautiously hopeful that book 6 will experience a course correction with the characterization and bring everything back, but Murder on Cold Street brought some of my favorite characters down and was hard to understand. However, I enjoyed it and love this series so much, so despite feeling like a 3.5 wave, I am giving it the full four waves. Pick up this bad boy anywhere books are sold (go to Bookshop since they are the best obviously), but start with book one, A Study In Scarlet Women, here or here.

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