“Finally, on a Friday in June, my prayers were finally answered, at the cost of someone else’s fortune…”
The first book in Angela Misri’s Portia Adams Adventures series was one I was looking forward to reading for even longer than when I interviewed her in April, but, due to all the things that have been happening since April, I’ve only just now finished it. And now I eagerly await the next few books in the series! Jewel of the Thames is built on a really fun concept: John Watson’s granddaughter finds herself in 1930s London after her mother’s untimely death, taking up residence at 221 Baker Street and following in his mystery-solving footsteps. This volume includes three different casebooks, each with a different crime for Portia to solve: a jewel heist, a strange murder plot, and a missing little girl on a train. Portia herself is a bookish, though somewhat plucky young woman, raised to be hale and hearty by her poor but hard-working mother. Taken under the wing of a wealthy friend of her grandmother’s, Portia not only find herself dropped into the world of the grandfather she didn’t know, but she also has to adjust to a society she never imagined being a part of, too.
While Portia is a truly charming heroine, I felt myself struggling a little with the setting. This might not be the author’s fault, but rather my own. I read a lot of works set in the 19th Century, and I fear my brain was trying desperately to fit Portia into that context rather than the 1930s, which is not as familiar to me. The language just seemed a little bit more Victorian to me, though I appreciate not being hit in the head with references to the time period. It was a very, very slow start to the book, far too much background and build up, and I didn’t care much for the first case. But I trudged ahead and found myself more enraptured with the other two. Sometimes set-up is a necessary evil, I suppose, but I felt we could have gained a lot if we had started in media res, with Portia already in London with a little bit of background peppered in to explain how and why she had gotten there. I also felt that perhaps some of the clue to solve the mysteries were a little too apparent…not necessarily in how they lead Portia to the answers, but mostly just in a sense that it was very obvious that I was reading a clue. They stuck out like red flags, and I would have liked them a little better hidden, and the big surprise at the end was something I firmly suspected practically from page two.
That said, while I definitely enjoyed the book, I truly felt I was a bit advanced to appreciate it as fully as I might have. If Portia had been around when I was in middle or high school, I would have eaten her up, reveled in the stories, and perhaps might not have been so picky about the things mentioned above. I almost wish I could go back and read the with a less trained (or cynical!) eye, because I would have loved it. So perhaps I’m not currently the right audience for the books, though that’s not going to stop me from devouring future volumes. I’m keen on Portia and I can’t wait to see how her character develops; in a way, I feel almost as though her character improving herself will easily clear up the few problems I had with the book. Mostly, though, I cannot wait for there to be more books in the series, and hopefully soon, because I have a desperate desire to get a small set of Portia Adams Adventures for my young niece, along with an original Sherlock Holmes book, to awaken in her what I knew I would have discovered if I had been twelve years old and I had one of these books in my hand. Portia might not be perfect for me now, but she certainly would be perfect for my teenaged self, and I’m really, really looking forward to sharing that with other little bookworms.
Books read: 015/100.