In The Art of Deception, the fourth book in author Leonard Goldberg’s Daughter of Sherlock Holmes series, it is near Christmas in 1916. Joanna Blalock-Watson, her husband John Watson, Jr., and her father-in-law John Watson, Sr., the former partner of the Great Detective himself, find themselves called in to assist Scotland Yard with a series of break-ins at art galleries and private homes that leave a path of destroyed artwork in their wake. Scotland Yard thinks it the work of a crazy person, but it is soon discovered that something far more sinister is going on. The artwork being destroyed is not the least bit random, and this sets Joanna and her companions on a collision course with a vicious criminal with no compunction about murdering those who get in the way.
What helps anchor the story are the references to events such as the Great War (WWI). The profound sense of fear at hearing about a breakout of cholera and the way it guides Joanna’s action as it pertains to her son Johnny is something that will definitely hit home for readers. However unwittingly, this small subplot from the author has real-world relevancy at the moment. These small touches help flesh out the characters while simultaneously helping to inform the main plot.
As I read the story, much like the characters in the book remarked, I found myself thinking that I would pay a lot of money to see a conversation between Sherlock and Joanna. Despite the time period, she’s forthright in her decision-making and does not play the fool because of her gender. The deft touch of Goldberg’s plotting lets readers imagine what it would be like if there was another generation of Holmes to set wrongs right.
Readers are sure to find themselves hooked by The Art of Deception’s simple yet undeniably appealing setup to an intricately designed puzzle, the solution to which brings a killer to justice. The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes series in general, and The Art of Deception specifically, is far more than a simple tribute to the original Holmes canon. Much like Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series, it expands upon the legendary detective in such an effective way that it stands on its own just as much as it pays tribute to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original works.