A Study In Darkness (The Baskerville Affair book 2) by Emma Jane Holloway (book review).

May 29, 2015 | By | Reply More

‘A Study In Darkness’ is the second book in ‘The Baskerville Affair’ trilogy. The world of the Baskerville Affair is an alternate Victorian London where a council of steam barons has divided the city among themselves. By controlling heat, power and light, these guys are practically ruling the city and the rest of the empire as well. The only thing they cannot really control is magic, which in this world is done by calling nature spirits called devas to do the magic users’ bidding. Therefore, the steam barons have arranged for magic to be banned, as well as new technology they do not control.


Evelina Cooper, niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, has just arrived back in 221b Baker Street after a trip to the country when a bomb explodes and almost kills her uncle. The questioned assassin turns out to be a double agent working for two of the steam barons at the same time, the Blue and the Gold King. Sherlock employs his niece, who just has been invited to Jasper Keating’s hunting lodge, to do a bit of spying on the Gold King and his friends. It becomes quite clear that both Holmes brothers are involved with the resistance against the steam barons.

However, at the hunting lodge, Keating catches Evelina red-handed in a compromising situation with Tobias Roth. How unfortunate he is engaged to Keating’s daughter. Keating blackmails Evelina into finding out who provides the Blue King with new weapon designs. In order to keep her head above water, not only does Evelina have to team up with an enemy she thought dead, but also dabbles in dark magic and even learns the identity of Jack the Ripper (who is quite terrifying in this world). But in her hour of need, she has some helpers she can rely on: her friend Imogen, her uncle Sherlock, Nick (who in the meantime has embarked on a career as a dashing airship pirate) and even Bucky Penner lends a hand.

‘A Study In Darkness’ is a well plotted novel which manages to keep the pace of its predecessor and actually crank it up a notch or two. You barely have time to breathe. The world building is great and Holloway’s descriptive style conjures pictures of the Victorian world in front of your inner eye.

‘The Baskerville Affair’, which was only hinted at in ‘A Study In Silks’, becomes more centre stage. All the characters are developed further which is once again nicely supported by the changing viewpoints from chapter to chapter. This way we gain insights into the mindset of every major character. The world gets darker with the change of scenery from the houses of upper class London to the hovels of Whitechapel and politics becoming more important. Emma Jane Holloway once more deploys her knowledge of the period to best effect.

This time, the novel gives us no satisfying conclusion but rather a large cliff-hanger, which leaves me very anxious to read about the further adventures of Evelina Cooper and the developments in the Baskerville Affair. The only thing that really irks me is Evelina behaving too much like a teenager. She is totally in love with two boys but, whenever one of them is near, she loses every shred of rationality she normally has. Really? I get it: Tobias Roth represents her future, technology, the upper class, the life she wants to have, whereas Nick is her past, magic, the life she wants to leave behind. But most times it seems too much like a simple plot device to get her into trouble.

If he can read around a couple of steamy (pardon the pun) love scenes, this book is still suitable for the reader who likes his steampunk with a tasty topping of whodunit and a side of magic.

Sven Scheurer

May 2015

(pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 513 page paperback. Price: $ 7.99 (US), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-53719-5)

check out websites: www.delreybooks.com and www.emmajaneholloway.com

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Category: Books, Steampunk

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