It’s not often that I do a back to back read, but since I was given review copies of A Knife in the Fog and Queen’s Gambit, I wanted to go all out and binge read. I’m always up for some Jack the Ripper variation stories and I jumped at the chance to read A Knife in the Fog. Also, it had a interesting take by having Arthur Conan Doyle in the story as one of the investigators. However, I soon found out that the real star in both these books is the character Margaret Harkness. While she was a real life person, the author did take liberties with her character.
(I did wind up liking one book over the other, but that’s because I’m biased to the subject matter.)
**Note** A Queen’s Gambit doesn’t release until September of 2019, but I wanted to combine these two reviews into one post for easy reference.
A Knife in the Fog
Give me a Jack the Ripper variation any day. I WILL READ IT. No matter what. Also, I’ve been reading a lot of Sherlock Holmes variations this year as well, so this fell into my lap at the perfect time. I was primed for it.
While the story took some time building up, it was a really riveting read. I loved the dynamic between Margaret, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Professor Bell. Margaret really was the most interesting one with her cross dressing to help investigate. Her sassy no nonsense put Doyle and Bell in their places and learned to respect her as a peer.
With Jack the Ripper variations, it’s always fun to find out how an author will reveal the identity. The big reveal in the end, was interesting for sure. Gosh, it really felt good to read about how they got rid of the problem. The mystery of it still held a big creep factor and danger element, because of the maniac on the loose.
For Ripper fiction fans, this one is a good one to add to your reading list. Of this series, even though you could start with it out of order, I do recommend reading this one first.
A Knife in the Fog
September 1888. A twenty-nine-year-old Arthur Conan Doyle practices medicine by day and writes at night. His first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, although gaining critical and popular success, has only netted him twenty-five pounds. Embittered by the experience, he vows never to write another "crime story." Then a messenger arrives with a mysterious summons from former Prime Minister William Gladstone, asking him to come to London immediately.
Once there, he is offered one month's employment to assist the Metropolitan Police as a "consultant" in their hunt for the serial killer soon to be known as Jack the Ripper. Doyle agrees on the stipulation his old professor of surgery, Professor Joseph Bell--Doyle's inspiration for Sherlock Holmes--agrees to work with him. Bell agrees, and soon the two are joined by Miss Margaret Harkness, an author residing in the East End who knows how to use a Derringer and serves as their guide and companion.
Pursuing leads through the dank alleys and courtyards of Whitechapel, they come upon the body of a savagely murdered fifth victim. Soon it becomes clear that the hunters have become the hunted when a knife-wielding figure approaches.
Queen’s Gambit featured more of Margaret Harkness, but the plot was a little different than the previous book. It focuses on one of the assassination attempts on Queen Victoria. This one was a little slower for me and not as interesting as A Knife in the Fog. I guess there was too much gun jargon. The dual POV between the assassin and the protagonists was interesting. It makes the villain more human and he really just was a pawn in the grand scheme of things.
All this takes place before WWI, but one could get a feel for the atmosphere and how tense situations were.
I wished Professor Bell and Doyle played more of a part in this, but the addition of Inspector James Ethington and his daughter Elizabeth made the read just as enjoyable.
I wasn’t expecting this one to pull at my heartstrings, but the ending was definitely bittersweet.
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
Spring, 1897. London. Margaret Harkness, now in her early forties, must leave England for her health but lacks the funds. A letter arrives from her old friend Professor Bell, her old comrade in the hunt for Jack the Ripper and the real-life inspiration for Sherlock Homes. Bell invites her to join him in Germany on a mysterious mission for the German government involving the loss of state secrets to Anarchists. The resolution of this commission leads to her being stalked through the streets of London by a vengeful man armed with a powerful and nearly silent air rifle who has both Margaret and Queen Victoria in his sights. Margaret finds allies in Inspector James Ethington of Scotland Yard and his fifteen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who aspires to follow in Margaret's cross-dressing footsteps.
The hunt is on, but who is the hunter, and who the hunted as the day approaches for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee when the aged empress will sit in her open carriage at the steps of St Paul's Cathedral? The entire British Empire holds its breath as the assassin, Margaret, and the Queen herself play for the highest of stakes with the Queen's Gambit.
Are you obsessed over certain historical events? If so, which one?