Review: The Hollow of Fear

Charlotte Holmes is back, and the stakes are higher than ever

The paragon of Victorian womanhood may have been demure and delicate, but there are no shrinking violets in the third novel of Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series. The Hollow of Fear’s charm and tension come from Thomas’ dexterous use of a classic trope: A good guy is being framed, and our heroine’s racing the clock to find the real killer.

Here, it’s Charlotte Holmes, fallen woman and brainiac who makes her career as a consulting detective under the male pseudonym Sherlock, put in the position of saving her childhood friend, Lord Ingram, from hanging for the murder of his wife. Their mutual pining has been one of the series’ most potent emotional throughlines – readers are strongly advised not to jump into Hollow without first reading its two predecessors – and with Ingraham imperiled, we’re treated to a Holmes who is unnerved by how much she has to lose if she doesn’t solve the case.

The mystery at the novel’s heart is compelling enough – Thomas strings the reader along with just enough details that you feel sure you could solve it if you were only a little bit cleverer – but it’s once again the author's incisive and compassionate glimpses at how women survive the strictures of misogyny that place the book a cut above the rest. Whether she’s showing us an inspector’s struggles to understand his wife’s intellectual ambitions, families’ shame and confusion over having neurodiverse daughters, or society’s inability to reckon with a woman at ease with her own sexuality, Thomas invites us into a Victorian England that’s all at once romantic, adventurous, frightening and a little too close to home.

The Hollow of Fear
by Sherry Thomas
Berkley, 336 pp., $15

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More mystery novels
Romancing the Holmes
Romancing the Holmes
What inspired Sherry Thomas to turn Sherlock into Charlotte?

Rosalind Faires, Oct. 2, 2018

More by Rosalind Faires
Books to Read and Wrap for the Holidays
Emergency Contact
It’s wry and vulnerable love via text message in this YA novel set in Austin

Dec. 7, 2018

Texas Book Festival 2018: Real Romance: Alyssa Cole and Jasmine Guillory
Texas Book Festival 2018: Real Romance: Alyssa Cole and Jasmine Guillory
The two on what makes their contemporary love stories sparkle

Oct. 29, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

mystery novels, Sherry Thomas, Lady Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle