March 11, 2015

Thrice Burned: A Portia Adams Adventure

Atlantic Canadian publisher Fierce Ink Press has generously included me in the blog tour Blog on Fire for the release of Angela Misri's sequel Portia Adams Adventure, Thrice Burned.  Please check out additional blog posts at Fierce Ink Press. And, for those of you who have forgotten the deals of Portia Adam's first cases, read my review of Jewel of the Thames and get some additional background from my interview with Angela Misri at the time of its release.

Thrice Burned 
A Portia Adams Adventure
by Angela Misri
Fierce Ink Press
281 pp.
Ages 12+
For release March 24, 2015
Reviewed from advance reading copy ePub

The shocking revelation at the conclusion of Jewel of the Thames (Fierce Ink Press, 2014) that her grandparents on her father's side are ex-criminal Irene Adler–currently known as Irene Jones–and Sherlock Holmes may have hit Miss Portia Adams hard but she won't let it distract her from her law studies at Somerville College or from honing her detection skills.  She continues her lessons in self-defense from Bruiser Jenkins, and studying alongside Chief Inspector Archer of Scotland Yard.  But she's also learning more about London's landscape, both topographical and invisible, and about lie detection from the formidable lawyer Mr. Ian Meyers.  Having established her own group of Irregulars, street children whom she pays with money, food and treats, Portia undertakes three new cases, Casebooks Five through Seven : Thrice Burned, Box 850*, and Truth Be Told.

In Casebook Five, arsons at three different locations, but with no damage to adjoining buildings, have Portia making the acquaintance of Miss Anne Coleson, a reporter looking to salvage a marred reputation and earn a living to care for her younger siblings.  While Portia is reluctant to oblige, she begins to see some positives to Annie's proposal, especially once Annie becomes romantically involved with Constable Brian Dawes, a young man for whom Portia has romantic feelings.  Ultimately the two women work together somewhat to solve the perplexing arsons, though it is truly Portia with her sharp mind and doggedness who brings the criminals to justice.  And all that while she tries to balance her affections for Brian, the intriguing forensic scientist Dr. Whitaker, and her grandmother's choice of suitor, Dr. Beanstine, coroner and a lord's son.

While the title Thrice Burned does refer to the trio of arsons in which Portia becomes involved in solving, it can also refer to the multitude of circumstances by which her own reputation is injured, through antagonism, humiliation, disappointment and revelation.  Of course, the criminals whose crimes Portia reveals are always a potential threat to her, but the involvement of a reporter, Mr. Dick McGregor, whose fabricated and outlandish stories refer to her and her activities without any veracity, leads to endangering her work and privacy.  Though she has allowed Annie Coleson to refer to her activities as those of Consulting Detective P.C. Adams–without any reference to her gender or ancestry–McGregor puts Portia's actions into question with the police who begin to believe that Portia is taking credit for their work. Fortunately, the support of Brian Dawes, Chief Inspector Archer and Sergeant Michaels helps to right those incorrect insinuations.

In Casebook Six, Angela Misri effortlessly takes Portia into the darkness, that occasionally enveloped her grandfather Holmes, when flummoxed with a case of potential theft, an antagonistic British Secret Intelligence Service agent and her affections for Brian Dawes. 
"This is not an ordinary ennui, Portia.  The excitement and adrenaline of a case–a really engaging, difficult case–that was the high.  The solution and then the time between that and the next exciting case...that was the low.  And for Sherlock, the high was higher than anything else in his life, and, therefore, so was the low." (pg. 150)
Regardless of the complexity of the Box 850 case and the subsequent case involving the disappearance of women of ill-repute upon their public damnation at the Matfelon Church, Portia is able to focus her detection skills on solving the mysteries with scientific elegance.  Though struggling with amorous feelings with which she is wholly unfamiliar, Portia conducts her sleuthing with the eye for details and labyrinthine problem-solving of one grandfather i.e., Sherlock Holmes, and the humanity of the other, Dr. Watson. Angela Misri has created Portia Adams to be a true incarnation of the great detective and his friend and biographer, while ensuring the Canadian consulting detective is wholly her own person too.

Reading A Portia Adams Adventure, whether it be Jewel of the Thames or Thrice Burned, is like revisiting the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Just as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle often chose to recount several of Sherlock Holmes' cases in a single tome, Angela Misri follows suit, extending the authentic and complementary nature of the series to those of the famous detective.  Thrice Burned is like having new Sherlock Holmes mysteries to read, only now starring an inquisitive and astute young woman (without the Asperger's Syndrome tendencies) and in a London of the 1930s.  And it works so, so well.  Elementary, wouldn't you say?

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