Readers will enjoy following the slow unraveling of the web as Margaret and the Ethingtons circle around Ott. There are many characters—some only gracing one or two chapters—and though the shifts in focus can be confusing, they ultimately help to paint a wide, detailed picture of the setting. Margaret and James’s budding feelings for each other are a delightful escape from the darkness of Ott’s intentions, but the best relationship of all is between Margaret and Elizabeth. The 15-year-old lost her mother two years prior and is clearly searching for a non-male role model, which she finds in Margaret. The two women complement each other, with Margaret’s blunt, no-nonsense attitude and independence inspiring Elizabeth to speak her mind. The dialogue can feel a little clunky, but the language fits with the formalities of Victorian London.
One of the most delightful elements is Harper’s inclusion of colorful people from history, whose lives he outlines in short bios in the back of the book. Margaret liaises with Professor Joseph Bell (the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes), Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mark Twain; she also encounters Archduke Franz Ferdinand and, of course, Queen Victoria. She herself is based on the radical writer Margaret Harkness, who used the pen name John Law. Any crime fan or Victorian era history buff will find this a satisfying saga of female empowerment and adventure.
Takeaway: This suspenseful story will delight Victorian crime readers with strong female leads and a satisfying chase through 1897 London’s foggy streets.
Great for fans of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, Anne Perry, Arthur Conan Doyle.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B
Queen's Gambit was just announced as the 2020 winner of Killer Nashville's Silver Falchion Award in two categories, both as Best Suspense Novel and as Book of the Year!