Secret Letters by Leah Scheier
Genre: YA, historical fiction, mystery, romance, Sherlockian fiction
Published on June 26, 2012
Published by Hyperion
Read From: 9.18.12 - 9.20.12
Final Rating: 3/5 strawberries
Sherlockian Rating: 2/5 deerstalker caps
Inquisitive and observant Dora Joyce dreams of escaping her aristocratic country life to solve mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes, who just might be her biological father. So when her beloved cousin's love letters are held for ransom by an unknown thief, Dora jumps at the opportunity to travel to London to enlist the legendary detective's help in saving her cousin from scandal. But Dora arrives at his doorstep to devastating news: Sherlock Holmes is dead.
Her dreams of working alongside her hero are dashed, but Dora is determined to help her cousin and prove her worth. She enlists the help of enigmatic young detective Peter Cartwright, who is himself working to recover kidnapped heiress Lady Rose. When they realize that the crimes might share a culprit, Dora goes undercover at the heiress's country estate in hopes of discovering the thief before her cousin's reputation - and Lady Rose - are beyond saving.
Cover Blurb: For me, it’s so-so. I like the magnifying glass over Big Ben, and the title’s font, but the girl looks nothing like how I imagined Dora, and in all honesty, when I first picked the book up, I didn’t think that it was historical fiction. It could just as easily take place in the twenty-first century as the nineteenth.
What I Liked: I did like Peter Cartwright. He was clever and convincing in his role.
What I Disliked: I hate, absolutely hate the premise of Dora being Sherlock’s daughter, let alone his illegitimate one. This concept ignores one of the fundamental basics of Sherlock’s character, and my Sherlockianism completely revolts at the idea. The only reason it was even halfway tolerable was because Dora never actually meets Sherlock, thus there is no emotional scenes, but I suspect this book has a sequel, and I further suspect that she will meet Sherlock in that. I at first liked Dora, but as the story wore on, I got tired of her. She was dangerously close to having The Attitude, she was too emotional and got all prickly way too easily, and even worse – she allowed her emotions to get in the way of her investigations. Sherlock would be appalled. The tense relationship between Dora and Peter felt forced, and I would always groan out loud when the two got into “I’m the better detective” arguments. There wasn’t a moment when I thought it was even mildly entertaining, let alone cute.
Believability: Dora had a very modern viewpoint about everything: dress, equality, and abortion. I’m not saying women didn’t have opinions on these things during this time in history, but hers were very modern. And according to the book, Dora spent her life studying Sherlock’s methods, but she never learned how to pick a lock?! How believable is that?
Writing Style: It wasn’t bad, but often it felt too modern for the time period, especially when Dora was expressing her sentiments on certain subjects. The story’s pacing was appropriately fast and exciting, and the Author does keep her Readers guessing about what’s going to happen next. But the plot was hard to follow at times due to patchy writing, and then there were all the unnecessary occurrences that seemed to have no real purpose behind them: What was the point of Dora falling so dreadfully ill from her burns? What was the point of Agatha being pregnant at all and wanting an abortion? And why did all of the women have to be involved in affairs? It’s like the Author would come across a point in her story where she needed a background for a character, and decided, Well, they had an affair, too. Talk about using a plot device way too much.
Content: There is nothing explicit, not even remotely. But practically every female character has had an affair, and one wants to get an abortion.
Conclusion: And here is where a lot of my complaints rest. While the storyline was exciting, and everything was tied together nicely, the plot itself felt convoluted at times, leaving the Reader feeling confused about certain points when the revelations begin. I wondered several times if I had skipped a chapter, and I went back looking, but no – the Author just did a patchy job of showing the Reader important clues. And of course there is going to be a sequel. As a Sherlockian, I didn’t like this book very much. The premise of Dora being Sherlock’s daughter was all wrong, Dora wasn’t even convincing as his offspring (Enola Holmes is totally believable as his sister in Nancy Springer’s series), and the lack of historical accuracy with character personalities and opinions was painful. But as a regular Reader, it was mildly interesting.
Recommended Audience: Sherlockians, stay away from this; it will only frustrate you. But regular mystery Readers might enjoy it. It’s a girl read, suitable for ages fifteen and up.