Acquired Book By: I am a reviewer for Prometheus Books and their imprints starting in  as I contacted them through their Edelweiss catalogues and Twitter. I appreciated the diversity of titles across genre and literary explorations – especially focusing on Historical Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction and Scientific Topics in Non-Fiction. However, their imprints Seventh Street Books & Pyr were merged into Start Publishing in  – wherein I had the pleasure of being approached by their new publicity team via Kaye Publicity in Spring 2019 wherein I was first introduced to the Spice Shop Mysteries as I was told about a forthcoming release [for June] was “Chai Another Day”. From there, I started to work with Kaye Publicity to continue reviewing Seventh Street Book titles and author releases I am both familiar with and/or are considered “new authors” to my readerly life.
As an aside, despite the fact Seventh Street Books has been bought out by Smart Publishing – all links to their website and social accounts have remained active and use the same urls. The new publisher has maintained all their sites and thereby, the transition was seamless for readers who wanted to keep in touch with the authors and the series they come to love by Seventh Street Books & Pyr!
I received a complimentary copy of “Queen’s Gambit” direct from the publisher Seventh Street Books (an imprint of Start Science Fiction) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
On what I enjoyed in the pages of “A Knife in the Fog”:
This novel begins the series introducing us to all the key characters – from Professor Bell, to Arthur Conan Doyle and Margaret Harkness. As the series progresses forward – the characters shift in focus & share the lead.
A reflectively pensive voice gives us the impression the following account of an investigation into the Ripper murders of East London was in effect not only of profound impact on the narrator of this story (of whom I presumed immediately was Conan Doyle) but was in reality, an important marker of time for this person. It envelopes itself into a pertinent relationship of mind and arms; of a person who not only of equal mirth of enquiry and investigative instincts but of common interests and conveyances which were equally dynamic in their own rights. It is here – within the fragmented touchstones of what is yet to come where you start to distinguish the ‘voice’ of the novel A Knife in the Fog to being very decisively Holmesian.
Doyle, similar to Holmes does not suffer fools gently nor does he wish his personal or professional time to be waylaid but people who are less than honest with him on first meeting. It is here where you can infer how much Harper was researching his protagonist not just as the subject study to influence his own series but how Doyle himself could embody a lot of the characteristics we’ve all come to love in our beloved Holmes; than thus even more readily, it would be Harper who gives us a fuller advantage of seeing the inspiration behind Watson. The interesting bit here is of whom was the inspiring force behind both characters as your own mind might have readily adapted itself to thinking it was Doyle to Holmes and Dr Bell to Watson when the reality of the truth is a bit more intriguing to say the least! For my own capacity of interest – I did vacillate at first to make the distinction myself – as there are aspects of both men within both characters, however, there are firm clues towards whom is whom so to speak throughout the narrative Harper has delivered leading to the truer truth behind the designation of which current characters elude to the infamous ones!
Finding little details of historical influence and relevancy like this uncomfortable reaction in Doyle made it a joy to read A Knife in the Fog – as there are other small touches of where the past feels ever-present and where the narrative has a lovely tone and style of being decidedly British and Historical in scope. I believe it is this kind of detailed fine tuning in the story which help alight you into the era we’re being presented – it is lovely when you can find writers who are going the extra mile to give us a presentation of an era which we can find plausible and believable like what Mr Harper has done within his series. Although some of his words and phrasing is wickedly British, he does revert back to writing this in an American voice – I would have preferred it to be more British in the choices of words but blessedly it felt British by how he conveyed the backdrop of the setting and how he approached our immersion into Doyle’s life.
I, on the other hand, took an immediate liking to Margaret – she was her own person, owning her truths and her way of life with the confidence you’d expect from a woman of her nature. She did not apologise for her choices in life (nor should she) and she had an upper edge against Doyle as his presumptive assumptions about her were loudly present even if they were left unsaid aloud. Harkness is the kind of no-nonsense woman who was game for anything and had this zest for believing she could accomplish whatever she needed to simply due to the courage she had to believe in herself. Ironically, her dedication and her fortitude seemed lost on Doyle – at least at this first crossing of their paths.
You truly appreciate how Harper has sharpened our impression of Harkness, as my favourite passage which involves her and Doyle at this junction of the story is when she saves him from a would-be robber. The event itself isn’t a spoiler for the story but it is a clear representation of how foiled Doyle was in thinking he would have held an upper hand in this situation. I love how Harkness not only re-proves the point about how women can be independently secure in their beings but also be resourceful enough to intervene whenever danger arises. It was a classy look at how misconceptions in gender and how unnecessary misunderstandings within the classes of gender can put undo judgement against people. I personally felt it was a rather fitting sequence as it set a tone for how Doyle would view Harkness and how Harkness would become endeared to the reader.
I had a feeling I knew where A Knife in the Fog was directing me in regards to whom would become unmasked as the Ripper. Harper did something quite classic in how he developed the story-line, the characters and the persons of whom they encountered along the route of the story as it shifted forward – he kept you close to the dialogue, the discoveries and the case as it evolved through the investigation. All of which is brilliantly within the guise of the genre this story is set but he also did a hat trick from a magician’s bag of tricks – he re-directed your attention away from something you might have clued in on more readily if you weren’t equally distracted from addressing what it was you thought you had picked up on earlier in the story! Laughs. I actually was quite impressed how long the suspense lasted as it takes you straight (almost!) to the concluding chapters to where Harper knits together the conclusion (some) readers might not expect to be the solution to the mysterious identity of the Ripper. I, for one, felt it was a right proper choice – it staid within the scope of the journey we took walking beside Conan Doyle, Harkness and Bell whilst it also eluded to a reality you could find believable about this infamous case of crime.
It is in the final chapter wherein I felt reconnected to Conan Doyle – as for me, he held within his character (within the scope of the series) a bit more Holmesian attributes than I think Harper even realised he had etched into his nature. He might have meant for us to view Doyle differently but in the final chapter, there was a brilliant moment of recognition and also quiet acceptance of how this characterisation of Conan Doyle was a classic representation of why I have loved Sherlock Holmes. It is fitting truly, Harper has found his voice in fiction to be fulfilling a missing gap in stories which I believe the real Conan Doyle would have appreciated had he lived to see their publication.
-quoted from my review of A Knife in the Fog
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 Holmes.
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.
Places to find the book:
Published by Seventh Street Books
on 17th September, 2019
Format: Trade Paperback
The Margaret Harkness & Arthur Conan Doyle Mysteries:
per each installment either both are featured or only Harkness takes the lead
A Knife in the Fog (book one) – (see also review)
Queen’s Gambit (book two)
- more installments are forthcoming!
This Summer I also featured an Interview with Mr Harper
Converse via: #QueensGambit, #HistNov and #HistFic OR #HistoricalThriller
Available Formats: Trade Paperback and Ebook
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: