Book Review: A Study in Treason by Leonard Goldberg


A top-secret treaty has been stolen from the Halifax estate in the English countryside and, if leaked into the wrong hands, could see England brought into a war with Germany as a significant underdog. Joanna Blalock, brilliant daughter of Sherlock Holmes (and knowledgeable of all things trivial by her own right) takes readers on another eventful investigation in A Study in Treason, the stand-alone sequel to The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes, the RT Book Reviewers Choice for Best Historic Mystery Novel in 2017.

When Joanna Blalock is brought onto the case, her relaxed, non-pressured style of solving the mystery is immediately at odds with the professionals of Scotland Yard. Like the true clinician she is, she approaches each conundrum with true curiosity and discernment. At each step of the way, she utilizes Ockham’s Razor: “Plurality ought never be posed without necessity,” or more simply stated, “The most unifying explanation is most likely to be correct.” While Scotland Yard’s inspectors grab hold of their first suspect for dear life, explaining away contradictions and impossibilities right and left, Joanna has the humility and good grace to accept that if an answer doesn’t make sense, it is likely because she doesn’t yet have all the facts. In this way, she stalwartly seeks out the facts and thereby appears to let the mystery solve itself.

Set in the early 1900s, with much of the action taking place in an inn and estate far from the bustling city of London, the novel transports its reader to a simpler time. The dialogue, the dress, the way of doing things (for example, the treaty was stolen while being hand-copied for the purpose of creating duplicate records) all are in stark contrast to today’s digital world. But the point is made throughout the novel that no matter how simple a setting seems, there is villainy is every place and every time, and it is often much more easily disguised in a place like Hampshire and a time like 1914.

As potential witnesses are murdered and the prime suspect goes into hiding, seeming to prove his guilt, Joanna and her companions must put the pieces together in a way that makes sense start to finish. Only once they have done this can the culprit can be flushed out.

Goldberg is true to his characters throughout the novel. Joanna is a strong and bold woman. She is well-bred, but makes no apologies for speaking out of turn or contradicting her male counterparts at Scotland Yard. Her husband, Dr. John Watson, along with her father-in-law, the original Watson, are also along for the ride. The two men have their own individual skills and knowledge to add to the investigation. The cast of domestic workers, inn employees, and members of the Halifax family each have their roles, and their own information to offer to the investigation, often without even realizing it. And Goldberg stays true to each story to the very end. With each i dotted and each tcrossed, the reader is not left with a single inkling of dissatisfaction, but with that glorious “it was there all along” feeling that is a necessity with every good surprise ending.

Purchase A Study in Treason here.

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