Review: Jewel of the Thames (Portia Adams Adventure #1) by Angela Misri, illus. Sydney Smith
Source: ebook, Published March 25, 2014 by Fierce Ink Press Co-op Ltd
Verdict: Good/Very Good
There’s a new detective at 221 Baker Street
Set against the background of 1930s England, Jewel of the Thames introduces Portia Adams, a budding detective with an interesting — and somewhat mysterious — heritage.
Nineteen-year-old Portia Adams has always been inquisitive. There’s nothing she likes better than working her way through a mystery. When her mother dies, Portia puzzles over why she was left in the care of the extravagant Mrs. Jones but doesn’t have long to dwell on it before she is promptly whisked from Toronto to London by her new guardian. Once there Portia discovers that she has inherited 221 Baker Street — the former offices of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
Portia settles into her new home and gets to know her downstairs tenants, including the handsome and charming Brian Dawes. She also finds herself entangled in three cases: the first involving stolen jewelry, the second a sick judge and the final case revolving around a kidnapped child. But the greatest mystery of all is her own. How did she come to inherit this townhouse? And why did her mother keep her heritage from her? Portia has a feeling Mrs. Jones knows more than she is letting on. In fact, she thinks her new guardian may be the biggest clue of all.
If you, like me, are keen for more Sherlock Holmes-inspired tales and 20th century-era YA mysteries, then Jewel of the Thames may be for you!
Misri has created what I think is an intriguing take on the legend of Sherlock Holmes, bringing promising charm to a beloved (and very copied) oeuvre. As the description notes, our main character Portia Adams comes suddenly into the inheritance of 221 Baker Street- the famous dwelling of Holmes and Watson- forcing her move from Toronto to London in the 1930s. With her mother recently deceased and no one answering questions of ‘why’, Portia takes it upon herself to figure out her links to Watson and Holmes. Mrs. Irene Jones, a formidable and charismatic older woman appointed as guardian of Portia, remains relatively close lipped about Portia’s inquiries into the famous duo.
While investigating her own lineage and her mother’s possible deceptions about her true relatives, Portia slowly becomes a force in helping out Scotland Yard with a number of cases. I appreciate a good story featuring an independent and resourceful female protagonist, and the character of Portia Adams is precisely that. Portia is written as a very capable, highly observant, intelligent woman from the get go. With generous monetary help from Irene Jones, Portia begins to study law at university, so her jump into police investigation flows wonderfully with the story. Additionally, the end of the novel closes with a great reveal from Irene Jones, leaving quite a bit of room for more intricate- and possibly higher-caliber- mysteries.
I will say that those just looking for rip-roaring, high-speed sort of a mystery (or mysteries) might need to look elsewhere: Jewel of the Thamesis rather careful in its pace, build and climaxes. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though I hope for future Portia adventures and mysteries, the pace and plotting clips up a little bit! Fans of Y.S. Lee’s fantastic historical The Agency series (a favourite series of mine); Jennifer McGowan’s Maid of Secrets; Canadian author Kit Pearson; cozy mysteries; or BBC mysteries might especially enjoy this novel.