A Study in Darkness

A Study in Darkness
Part of the Baskerville Affair series:
Editions:Paperback
ISBN: 978-0345537195
Kindle
ISBN: B00CNQ7BCY
ePub
ISBN: 9780345545664

When a bomb goes off at 221B Baker Street, Evelina Cooper is thrown into her Uncle Sherlock’s world of mystery and murder. But just when she thought it was safe to return to the ballroom, old, new, and even dead enemies are clamoring for a place on her dance card.

Before Evelina’s even unpacked her gowns for a country house party, an indiscretion puts her in the power of the ruthless Gold King, who recruits her as his spy. He knows her disreputable past and exiles her to the rank alleyways of Whitechapel with orders to unmask his foe.

As danger mounts, Evelina struggles between hiding her illegal magic and succumbing to the darker aspects of her power. One path keeps her secure; the other keeps her alive. For rebellion is brewing, a sorcerer wants her soul, and no one can protect her in the hunting ground of Jack the Ripper.

Published: October 29, 2013
Publisher: Del Rey
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Excerpt:

London, August 24, 1888

Baker Street
2:35 p.m. Friday

The door to 221B Baker Street opened and a body hurtled over the threshold, causing Evelina Cooper to skitter backward. The body landed with a wheeze on the hot sidewalk, arms and legs sprawling.

In her haste to back up, Evelina stepped into the street itself and narrowly avoided collision with a speeding steam cycle. With a silent curse, she caught her balance against the wrought-iron post of a gaslight, wondering what sort of a mood her uncle was in. Projectile clients were never a good sign.

The man on the sidewalk moaned. One hand groped awkwardly, as if seeking any solid object to cling to, and fastened on her right foot in its gray kid boot. As the only weapon Evelina had was her parasol, she swiped at the importunate fingers, delivering a smart tap with the furl of pale pink silk.

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“Sir, unhand my toes.” Then she frowned. That hadn’t sounded quite right.

The man didn’t move, instead emitting another groan. She studied him for a moment, the August sun warm against her shoulders. His limbs appeared to bend in the usual places and no blood was pooling around the prone body, but he lay perfectly still. Delicately, she pushed his fingers away with the ivory tip of her parasol and wondered whether she should send for Dr. Watson. The good doctor had married and moved out of Baker Street, but he always came at once when her uncle required his services—which seemed to be with disturbing regularity.

Evelina’s shoulders hunched. Passersby were giving her strange looks. As she looked up, a lady with a perambulator crossed the street, obviously avoiding the strange tableau.

“Spare him no sympathy, niece of mine, he is but refuse tossed into the gutter.” The voice came from the doorway, and Evelina turned to see Sherlock Holmes glowering out at them. Tall and spare, his black-suited form was an exclamation point in the doorway. The long, lean lines of his face pulled into a frown. He jerked his chin toward the sprawling form. “That individual is engaged in a perfidious plot. I suggest you step away from him at once. Quickly.”

They hadn’t seen each other for months, and one might have expected a hello or a polite inquiry about one’s health—but Evelina knew better than to expect social niceties from Holmes when there was a villain adorning the front walk. “A plot to what end?”

“Come inside and I’ll give you the details.”

“What about him?”

“I’ll call a street sweeper,” Holmes said mordantly.

Evelina caught a glimpse of movement from the fallen man, but her attention didn’t stay on him. Suddenly the house rumbled, and then a cloud of thick black smoke belched from the upstairs study window. There was a female shriek behind Holmes.

“Mrs. Hudson!” Evelina cried, and Holmes turned to check on his landlady.

The man on the ground chose that moment to spring to life. He rolled away from Evelina, coming to his feet in a practiced move. She saw the shape of a gun as his coat swung wide with the motion. Acting on instinct, she thrust the point of her parasol into his spine, the force of the blow splintering the wooden handle of her makeshift weapon. He staggered forward with a grunt, but then he used the momentum to sprint toward the door, drawing the gun as he ran.

Panic bit hard and fast, freezing a cry of outrage deep in her throat. Evelina grabbed for the man, but her fingers just brushed the back of his wool coat. She followed as quickly as a bustle and stays would allow, skirts swinging like a bell, but he was already through the door. She grabbed the frame and hauled herself forward, narrowly avoiding a fall as her heel caught on the sill. She skidded to a stop in the dim light of the front hall. She was alone.

Her uncle had vanished, as had his attacker. Evelina turned slowly, taking in her surroundings. Smoke hung in the air like stinking black breath, but there was no damage she could see. The explosion—for that was surely what had caused the disturbance—had been confined upstairs. And where was Mrs. Hudson?

For a moment the only sound was the clamor of voices outside. A man with a booming voice was explaining that the detective who lived upstairs was a chemist, fond of smelly experiments. An old gent with a wheezy tenor was sure the radicals had struck. No one barged in with offers of help.

“Mrs. Hudson?” she asked in a stage whisper.

“I’m here.” The housekeeper materialized at the door leading to the lower apartments. She was still a handsome woman, straight-backed and neat as a pin, but now her face was ashen. “That man chased your uncle up to his study.”

Evelina edged toward the foot of the stairs. Pausing for a moment, she listened to the sudden, ominous silence. Her brain wanted to lunge forward, but her feet were obstinately glued to the carpet. Evelina didn’t like the fact the armed man had the higher ground and the staircase offered no cover, but there was no alternative—except to do nothing.

A gunshot cracked overhead, echoing ferociously in the tiny front hall. Somewhere on the second floor, a window smashed. Evelina looked up at the sweep of the staircase that led up to her uncle’s suite. Feet thundered overhead. Evelina grabbed her parasol more tightly, and then noticed its splintered handle. It drooped like a wilted tulip. She tossed it aside and picked up the no-nonsense broom that Mrs. Hudson had left beside the door.

“You’re not going up there, young lady!” Mrs. Hudson announced, grabbing Evelina’s arm. “I’m fetching the constables.”

The landlady was being perfectly reasonable, but the voices inside Evelina were not. She had lost her parents, and Holmes was the one remaining relative who had shown her any understanding. She wasn’t about to squeal and run away in a flutter of ribbons—and after growing up in a circus, she had more skills than the average debutante. “You go. I’ll do more good here.”

“Miss Cooper!” the landlady protested.

“I’ll be fine.” Evelina heard her voice crack with doubt, but somehow speaking the words broke her stasis. Lifting her skirts in one hand, she took all seventeen stairs in a single, silent rush, the broom poised for action. She crept toward Holmes’s study door, staying close to the wall. The smell of gunpowder was thick enough to make her nose run.

Crack! She heard a bullet hit the plaster on the opposite side of the wall, from within her uncle’s study. It punched through the wall just above her head and dust rained down, tickling her face. Evelina hurried the last few steps to the study entrance, peering around the carved oak of the door frame. A quick glance told her the path to Dr. Watson’s old desk was clear. Watson had always kept his service revolver there. She wondered whether her uncle, who adapted to change with as much ease as rocks learned to fly, had replenished the firearm drawer when the doctor had left.

But the thought went by in an instant, pushed aside by the tableau directly ahead. Holmes knelt on the bearskin rug before the fireplace, facing Evelina. The stranger stood a little to her left, with his back to her and his gun aimed at Holmes’s head. Swirls of black particles sifted through the air, eddying on the warm August breeze and settling on the litter of papers and other debris scattered across the floor. The room—never exactly tidy—was in a terrible state, but she didn’t take the time to thoroughly catalogue the damage. That could wait.

“We were having a conversation before you threw me out,” the man growled at Holmes.

Evelina noticed the accent sounded neither working class nor quite gentry. That made him one of the many in between. These were hard times for men like that, so many trying to scrabble upward while most slid further behind. And that fit with his clothes—tidy, but inexpensive, his shoes in need of patching. In any other circumstances she might have taken him for a clerk or a lesser type of tutor—almost middle aged, nondescript, and the type one would pass without a second look. Of course, that might have been the whole idea.

Holmes said nothing, his entire body as communicative as the fire screen behind him.

“There’s no point in keeping quiet.” The man shifted his grip on the gun, as if his hand was growing tired. At the same time, he was using one foot to move the papers around on the floor, taking quick glances to see what they were. More correspondence had landed on the nearby basket chair, and he picked up a handful, quickly scanning the letters and tossing them aside. Clearly, he was looking for something.

At least that meant he was fully occupied. Silently balanced on the balls of her feet, Evelina eased into the room. She saw a minute tightening of her uncle’s mouth, but he gave no other indication that he saw her.

Now what? She took another glance around the room. Some of the furniture had tipped over in the blast, but other pieces, like the desks, were still miraculously upright. Watson’s desk was directly to her right, just past the dining table. If she moved in utter silence, she could open the drawer, grab the gun she hoped was there—and loaded—and shoot the intruder before he shot her or her uncle. If she remained utterly silent and if she were fast enough, her plan might work.

Or she could creep up and knock him unconscious with the broom handle. She might get shot that way, too, but the whole scheme sounded simpler.

“Even if you think your way out of this with that big head of yours,” the man went on while throwing more papers to the floor, “someone else will come. I won’t be your only visitor, I can promise you that. The Steam Council is on to you.”

So what did the steam barons want with her uncle? As far as she knew, Holmes was in favor with Keating after he had exposed a forgery scheme that had robbed the Gold King of a fortune in antique artifacts. If they survived the next hour, she would have to ask.

Lifting the broom high, Evelina ghosted forward, walking slowly so that her skirts didn’t rustle.

“Your brother knows who the members of the shadow government are. But he is a hard man to catch outside the walls of his home or club.”

Holmes finally spoke, only the quickness of his words betraying his nerves. “If you believe that I have my brother’s complete confidence, you are sorely mistaken.”

“Putting a hole in your head might draw him out.”

A derisive smirk flickered over Holmes’s face. “I think not.”

Evelina raised the broom high above her head.

“I’ll give it a try anyhow. Unless you want to talk.” The man snatched up a calling card, read the name, and flicked it aside. Then he adjusted his aim a fraction, focusing completely on Holmes. “The council has heard the name Baskerville. They’d like to know something about that. It would save time if you pointed me to your correspondence with the rebel ringleaders.”

Holmes lifted his brows slightly. “The steam barons have played you for a fool.”

Evelina struck. There must have been a noise—a whistle of air through the bristles, perhaps—because the man turned at just the wrong moment. Rather than knocking him out, the broom handle glanced off his temple with a hollow crack, sending him stumbling into the basket chair next to the rug.

Then Holmes was on his feet, hammering the man in the jaw with a hard right hook. The gun went spinning away, clattering under the table. The man dove for it but so did Evelina, using her speed and smaller size to wriggle between the chairs first. For the second time that day, he grabbed her foot, this time trying to use it to drag her out of his way. Then Holmes was on him. That gave her enough time to grab the slick handle of the revolver. It was still warm from his hand.

Evelina kicked the man off and twisted around so that she was on her knees. Holmes hauled the man back and punched him again. This time the man stayed where he fell. Evelina felt a bit ridiculous, crawling out from under the table and trying not to get tangled in her petticoats, but she eventually got to her feet.

She pointed the gun at the writhing man’s belly. “Don’t move,” she said, squeezing the weapon so that it would not shake.

“You bloody hoyden.” The man’s face twisted as red streamed down his lip and chin, bubbling with his wheezing breaths. “I didn’t plan on killing you when I started, but I can see you’re an apple off the same tree.”

“Confine yourself to answering questions,” she said crisply.

He wiped his nose on his sleeve, staining the fabric crimson. Evelina winced in sympathy—there was little doubt Holmes had broken the man’s nose—but she kept the muzzle of the revolver squarely aimed. His eyes, red-rimmed and blurred with pain, were still bright with anger.

Holmes, with the air of one who is about to put out the trash, strode briskly toward them. He bent and, quickly and efficiently, searched the man for other weapons. He found a knife, a pocketbook—which he examined, taking out several papers and looking them over—a small flask—which he opened and sniffed—and a ticket stub from a music hall. Holmes set the items aside and took the gun from her. And however little she liked the idea of holding a man at gunpoint, Evelina felt oddly bereft as she surrendered it. A primitive instinct had already marked the intruder as her prey.

“My dear,” Holmes said, “would you please reassure the crowd outside that nothing is amiss?”

She suddenly became aware of the hubbub in the street. “What shall I tell them?”

“Whatever you like, but if you see a scruffy young lad named Wiggins, would you ask him to call for, um, for our mutual friend?”

Evelina stared for a moment, but knew better than to ask for details. Gingerly, she picked her way across the blasted room. Shards of glass framed the view of the brown brick building across Baker Street, with its neat white sashes and bay windows. Mrs. Hudson’s lace curtains lay in shreds.

Carefully, she put her head out the hole in the shattered pane. There was a crowd gathered below, their upturned faces all wearing identical looks of bald curiosity. Someone in the street shouted a halloo, and Evelina waved. “Nothing to worry about. Just an accident with the kettle. No need to concern yourself.”

A boy of about twelve, wearing ill-fitting clothes and ragged shoes, slouched against the lamppost. “That musta been some cuppa!”

“Yes, it was a very large kettle,” Evelina replied. “Are you Wiggins?”

“Indeed I am, miss.”

Evelina cast a glance over her shoulder, but her uncle hadn’t moved. She knew he employed street urchins from time to time as a kind of messenger service that not even the steam barons could infiltrate. Wiggins had to be one of them. She turned back to the boy. “Mr. Holmes wishes to speak to your mutual friend.”

“Right you are.” The boy did an about-face and bolted down the street at a dead sprint. Apparently that mutual friend was well known.

She pulled her head back inside, her curiosity getting the better of her. “Who is your friend?”

“Someone equipped to take this charming specimen into custody,” her uncle said flatly.

The man swore.

Holmes gave him a freezing look. “Silence. There is a young lady present.”

The man shifted, his face sullen.

“Mrs. Hudson already went for the constables,” Evelina said.

“Won’t find any,” their prisoner put in. Perhaps he had friends who were keeping the local plods occupied. Evelina hoped it wasn’t anything worse than that.

Holmes looked unimpressed. “Even so, we dare not waste time.” Impatiently, he waved her over and handed her the gun again. “Keep him still.”

With that Holmes crossed to his collection of chemical supplies and surveyed the racks of bottles intently, clasping his hands behind his back as if to deliver a lecture on the laws of aether. He stood for so long that Evelina grew bored and longed to let her gaze roam around the room rather than keeping her attention on the man on the floor. She’d caught glimpses of the soot-stained walls, the paintings hanging crooked. The explosion appeared to have emanated from a spot near the window.

“What blew up?” she asked.

“A brown paper package.” Holmes finally selected an amber glass bottle from the chemical supplies and then began rummaging in his desk. “It was badly placed and badly made, if the intent was to obliterate my rooms and everyone in them. Although this looks like a great deal of damage, an efficient bomb would have reduced 221B Baker Street to a smudge.” Eventually he took out a leather case and opened it, revealing a hypodermic needle. He took it out and began filling it from the vial of liquid.

Evelina’s stomach squirmed at the sight of the long, sharp instrument. “I hope that’s a sedative.”

Holmes gave a flicker of a smile, but otherwise ignored the question as he squirted a few drops out the needle. “This individual—Elias Jones by name, and his pocketbook concurs with that identification—entered the premises on the pretense of hiring my services. He brought with him a package wrapped in butcher’s paper and string, and proceeded to spin a tale about a mysterious Dresden figurine I would find inside the box, and how it held the clue to the grisly murder of an elderly aunt and her fourteen cats, and how he had been cheated of his inheritance.”

“Fourteen cats?” Evelina echoed in surprise.

“It was not clear whether they were among the victims.”

Her throat tightened as he turned, hypodermic in hand. She tried to keep her voice light. “Perhaps the felines conspired to steal the old lady’s fortune?”

He gave her a dry look. “My would-be client’s laundry needed attention, and the box had a distinct chemical odor inconsistent with fine china. It was evident to me that he was attempting some sort of ruse. Accordingly, I refused his case and told him why. Then he became obstreperous and began demanding information. I summarily threw him out the door for his trouble, before he even had a chance to resist.”

“Or draw his gun,” Evelina observed, feeling more than a little queasy about what might have happened.

“Quite.” Holmes looked uncomfortable. “I apologize for tossing an armed man so close to where you were walking. That was unforgivably careless of me.”

“I’m sure you were quite occupied at the time.”

“I was annoyed,” Holmes replied. “Mr. Jones seems to be under the misapprehension that I know about Mycroft’s work simply because I am his brother. He could not be more wrong.”

“And the part about the rebels?”

“There is no telling why he assumes we are connected to the dissidents.”

That made Evelina’s breath catch. Not exactly a denial, uncle. What are you up to? The rebellion against the Steam Council was growing, and had been more and more in the papers over the summer. Anyone identified as a rebel automatically faced the gallows.

“What about it, Mr. Jones?” Holmes asked in a terrifying voice, holding the needle just where the man could see it. “Did your masters give you the order to insinuate yourself into my confidence in the guise of a client, and then search my quarters for evidence of treachery?”

Evelina swallowed hard. Uncle Mycroft worked for the government, but the Steam Council had so many politicians in their power, it was hard to know where the elected officials ended and the steam barons began. Loyalties were nothing if not complicated.

It was far easier for her to concentrate on more immediate problems. “If Mr. Jones knew his cover story was blown, why run back inside?”

“Indeed, why?” Holmes asked, leaning yet closer.

Jones grunted, flinching away from the needle.

The detective gave a thin smile. “Very well, keep your confessions for now and allow me to speculate. I spoiled your plan when I saw through your nonsense and tossed you to the street. There was no means of gaining information from the curb, so you had to get back inside if you wanted to earn your pay. At that point, direct questioning at gunpoint had to do. Not very subtle, but what does one expect from someone who is little more than hired muscle?”

“I still don’t understand the bomb,” said Evelina. “Why blow up the very person or place that can provide information?”

Holmes waited, giving Jones a chance to answer for himself, but the man remained mute, holding his hand to his bloody nose.

“That is rather less clear to me,” the detective mused. “He was carrying a small amount of a strong sedative, which suggests that he might have attempted to drug me. That would allow him to search my rooms at leisure, find a list of rebel names or whatever else he dreamed would be among my possessions, leave, and set off the incendiary device. Effective, since it delivers a supposed blow to the rebels and covers his deception in the same stroke.”

“But what if you had asked to see the figurine in the box?”

“The box might have been constructed to accommodate both a bomb and a prop for his masquerade.”

Jones made a noise that might have been agreement, but Evelina couldn’t tell. “Perhaps, though why risk setting a timer when there was no way to tell when his search would be over? It would have made more sense to set it once his search was done.”

She knew her uncle well enough to see under his insouciant mask. He didn’t know the answer to that question any more than she did.

“Accident?” Holmes mused. “Stupidity? You overreached yourself when you went up against me, Jones.”

Jones squeezed his eyes shut.

Perhaps he bit off more than he could swallow, but even fools kill people. Evelina’s skin pebbled with horror at what might have happened, and she looked down, thinking how easy it would be to pull the trigger on Jones right then and there.

And then, with a look of vague distaste, Holmes pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and tossed it to Jones to stanch the blood dribbling from his nose. As the man grabbed it from the air, Evelina noticed the smudges on his cuffs and understood the laundry comment her uncle had made earlier. “Gunpowder.”

“Precisely. Careless inattention to detail.”

Jones visibly cringed as he pressed the handkerchief to his face, but then he caught sight of Holmes advancing with the needle, obviously meaning to use it now. He made a low noise and tried to squirm backward. “Please, guv’nor, don’t kill me.”

Holmes was impassive. “You should have considered the consequences before you walked through my door with violence in mind.”

Evelina’s shoulders were in knots, the gun shaking in her hands. Elias Jones had tried to kill her uncle and had nearly blown her up in the bargain, but her insides still turned to ice. “Uncle?”

Wordlessly, Holmes caught Jones’s arm and began unbuttoning the filthy cuff and pushing up his sleeve. The man struggled furiously, making a choking sound of disgust and fear as Holmes jabbed the needle into his arm. Her uncle’s jaw twitched as he depressed the plunger, and Jones quieted at once, his eyes rolling back in their sockets. His silence disturbed Evelina almost more than his fear.

“Did you, uh . . .” she whispered, letting the gun droop.

“No.” Holmes narrowed his eyes. “Although that might be his preference by the end.”

Her mouth went dry. What the devil is going on?

There was a scamper of young feet on the stairs, followed by a heavier tread. A moment later, Wiggins burst into the room, followed by a man. He was about thirty, tall and lean, with curling, sandy hair and small wire-rimmed glasses tinted a pale green. As he surveyed the room, he wore the look of someone who was perpetually amused and slightly dangerous.

“Allow me to introduce the Schoolmaster,” Holmes said cordially, stepping away from Jones’s still form as if drugging a man senseless was an everyday event.

The Schoolmaster? Evelina had never met a man with a code name before, but in her uncle’s line of work she supposed such things occurred—and she would fall on her own parasol before letting on she was anything but au courant in the detecting game.

Holmes gave a brisk nod to the boy and tossed him a shilling. “Well done, Wiggins.” The lad caught it and was out the door again in a flash.

Then Holmes turned to the Schoolmaster. “Look what my niece has caught for you.”

“Indeed,” The Schoolmaster grinned appreciatively at Evelina.

His easy smile brought heat to her cheeks and irritated her all at once. She wasn’t in the mood for flirtation. “May I put this gun down now?”

Her uncle laughed. “And deprive my friend here of the spectacle of my lovely niece holding one of the prime villains of London at bay?”

“I will point out that I subdued him with a broom,” Evelina replied coolly. “If he is a prime villain, then crime in London is in decline.”

The Schoolmaster took the opportunity to flip Jones over and pin his hands. Evelina stepped aside to give him room.

“Well, perhaps he is a step or two down from prime,” Holmes replied, turning to the Schoolmaster. “You’ll be interested in this one. I had to confirm the identification, for I have not seen the man in the flesh for over a decade. Elias Jones is an old hand at the nastiest sorts of thuggery and is currently in the employ of the Blue King. Now there is a match of master and man to make the blood run cold.”

Evelina recoiled from the man. The Blue King—better known as King Coal—was the eccentric steam baron who ran the worst parts of East London, squeezing whatever he could from the impoverished residents. Anyone who worked for him had to be either pitied or reviled. Looking at Elias Jones, lying bloody and unconscious on the floor, she decided it was probably both.

The Schoolmaster withdrew a set of handcuffs the like of which she’d never seen before. He snapped a heavy cuff on Jones’s right wrist, and then a tendril of steel automatically snaked out to catch the left. The steel was so many-jointed that it was almost ropelike, but it snapped shut with a sharp click. No sooner had the sound faded than another rope sprang out to catch the man’s waist, then more slithered down his legs to hobble his ankles. Evelina was transfixed.

“How do those work?” she asked. The need to know was almost a hunger. She loved all things mechanical, and the design of the manacles was elegant, even fascinating, for all that they made her shiver.

The man gave her a teasing look, clearly planning to make her work for the information, and then turned back to Holmes. “Jones? I know this one’s reputation—a sly rat, if there ever was one. How long will he be unconscious?”

Holmes gave a slight shrug. “At least an hour.”

“Good.”

“He is really that fearsome then?” Evelina asked, still eying the manacles.

The Schoolmaster frowned, which she took as a worrying affirmative. “Why did the Blue King send him here?”

Holmes answered. “No doubt he wants what all men want from me—answers or silence.”

No, thought Evelina, it’s not that simple. They think you know something you shouldn’t. Now that the crisis was past, her mind was churning out questions. She knew that her Uncle Mycroft had his carefully manicured fingers in a great many pies, both literal and figurative—and apparently at least one pie was volatile enough to interest a steam baron and to make Holmes hide that fact from Evelina. A shadow government? Baskerville?

The Schoolmaster glanced down at his prisoner. “Shall we take him in, then?”

She wondered where “in” was since she very much doubted that they were referring to the police. If her uncle had wanted Scotland Yard, he would have sent Wiggins for Inspector Lestrade. And who was this Schoolmaster? The steam barons would want to ask him a great many questions about those restraints. Makers weren’t allowed to ply their trade without the Steam Council’s approval.

Holmes looked critically at Jones. “We’ll need a cab. The closer to the back entrance the better.”

“I have a Steamer around the corner,” the Schoolmaster replied. He turned to Evelina, touching the brim of his hat. “If you’ll excuse us, miss.”

She nodded mutely and turned to her uncle. “I was planning to have my trunk delivered from the station . . .”

“Oh, by all means,” he said with a flap of his hand. “Mrs. Hudson has your room ready. When she’s back from her quest for constables, perhaps you could ask her to sweep up and call the glazier. In the meantime, some letters have arrived for you. Invitations and whatnot. I’m sure they will keep you occupied until I return.”

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Fresh Fiction wrote:

The action starts from the very first page and never relents. Emma Jane Holloway does a marvelous job at keeping the intensity of the storyline high while continuing to develop the world. A STUDY IN DARKNESS is a complex, twisted and thoroughly delightful adventure. Emma Jane Holloway throws quite a few curveballs at the reader as the unpredictability is part of the fun.

Night Owl Reviews wrote:

This mesmerizing tale makes one anxious to see how the complications which develop in the story are resolved, particularly given the amazing twists that are revealed.

Hidden in Pages wrote:

This is one of the best steampunk series I have read yet. The world building here is phenomenal.

RT Book Reviews wrote:

Holloway’s second in her Baskerville Affair series is both a riveting steampunk adventure and a master class in characterization. The villains and scoundrels continue to be wonderfully complex, and heroine Evelina only grows more interesting as she explores the fearsome and fascinating darker side of her Blood magic.