Tuesday, June 6, 2023

The Wilhelm Conspiracy (Sherlock Holmes & Lucy James Mysteries #2), by Charles Veley

Thomas & Mercer, October 2016

Months after the events in The Last Moriarty, a prominent banker is found dead in compromising circumstances, and Inspector Lestrade appears at 221B Baker Street, having just been beaten up and given a message virtually on the doorstep.

The dead banker is the one who was involved in the transfer of German Imperial funds to its agents in the conspiracy against the British government. Lestrade was sent by the Commissioner to ask Holmes to get involved in the investigation of the theft of a new British super weapon. The men who beat him up gave him a message for Holmes--stay out of it.

Nothing could be more certain to secure Holmes' commitment to the case.

Lucy James, having seen the newspaper report of the banker's death and realizing it's connected to the previous case, arrives before Holmes and Watson have departed for Dover, where they are asked to meet Lord Lansdowne, the Secretary of War. Lucy is firmly told that this case is too dangerous and she won't be coming with them. Well, you can't really blame Holmes for not knowing his own daughter, since they've met so recently.

In Dover, they find a completely charred human body on the beach, and a device at  Kerren House which is claimed to be an electrical cannon invented by Nikola Tesla, who--also present--says it's the work of Lord Kerren, while strongly implying that Kerren may have stolen his own notes when visiting Tesla in New York. Kerren is currently away, in Germany, while his brother-in-law, Lord Radnar is in Colorado.

Since it's the Germans who are hinting they have Kerren's plans, it seems a little odd that he's in Germany.

Also on the scene, no surprise to the discerning reader, is Lucy James. Turns out her friend, Harriet Radnar, is the daughter of Lord Radnar, as well as being a fellow singer with the D'Oyly Carte Opera. And, we soon learn, one of Lansdowne's agents, assigned to listening carefully to the conversation among the elites of Europe wherever she travels with the Opera. 

Over the next few days, there's another death, several attacks, an apparent demonstration in a public park of the German version of the electrical cannon, attacks on Holmes and Watson, as well as messages making demands and offers related to the electrical cannon. There are missing parts to Kerren's version, which need to be recovered, but which may already be in the hands of the Germans.

Clues point in all directions, and Kaiser Wilhelm, who is not on wonderful terms with his uncle, Prince Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), may or may not be aware of what his ministers and staff are up to. They are definitely up to something, however. The Prince of Wales, not many years off from becoming King, is only superficially at the spa for recreational purposes. He's fully aware of the threat Lansdowne, Holmes, and others are working to stop, and is called upon to make some critical decisions along the way.

There's also clearly a traitor within Britain's War Department. Lansdowne would prefer to focus on recovering the stolen parts, while Holmes is adamant that they can't resolve the threat if they don't find the traitor.

Holmes and Watson are both attacked, separately and together, threats are received, and at one point Watson, while reluctantly accepting the Kaiser's "gift" of a visit to the same spa favored by the Prince of Wales, is hypnotized, and when he eventually emerges, can't be sure what information he's divulged.

Harriet Radnar is an interesting character in her own right, and should really be kept an eye on. 

It's fast-paced, interesting, and fun.

I received this book as a gift.

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