Author: Bradley Harper
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Part of a Series: Margaret Harkness Mystery
Type of book: 1881, 1897, communism, socialism, Great Britain, mystery, diamond Jubilee, Queen Victoria, Germany, diplomatic relationships, assassinations, family
Year it was published: 2019
Spring, 1897. London. Margaret Harkness, now in her early forties, must leave England for her health but lacks the funds. A letter arrives from her old friend Professor Bell, her old comrade in the hunt for Jack the Ripper and the real-life inspiration for Sherlock Homes. Bell invites her to join him in Germany on a mysterious mission for the German government involving the loss of state secrets to Anarchists. The resolution of this commission leads to her being stalked through the streets of London by a vengeful man armed with a powerful and nearly silent air rifle who has both Margaret and Queen Victoria in his sights. Margaret finds allies in Inspector James Ethington of Scotland Yard and his fifteen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who aspires to follow in Margaret's cross-dressing footsteps.
The hunt is on, but who is the hunter, and who the hunted as the day approaches for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee when the aged empress will sit in her open carriage at the steps of St Paul's Cathedral? The entire British Empire holds its breath as the assassin, Margaret, and the Queen herself play for the highest of stakes with the Queen's Gambit.
Main characters include Margaret Harkness, a woman of about 40 or so years of age who is best described as tough and an expert at cross dressing as a man as well as being talented with a gun. There is also James Ethington, an inspector who has recently become a widower and is trying to put his life back on track as well as his daughter Elizabeth who desires to become a detective and wishes for her father to see her as an adult. The antagonist, Hermann Ott/ Viktor Zhelyabov has had a tragic upbringing and is only doing what he thinks is right.
Don't judge things by appearances
The story is both in first person narrative and third person narrative. In first person narrative, it's from Margaret's point of view, while third person narrative is from the antagonists as well as from a detective's point of view. Also, this particular story takes place about nine or so years later from the first book, which focused on Jack the Ripper. I appreciated witnessing the Diamond Jubilee as well as getting to know Margaret Harkness. I sincerely hope that the author will pen more mysteries about her.
Bradley Harper is a former U.S. Army forensic pathologist and Pentagon physician. A member of the Mystery Writers of America, the Authors Guild, and Sisters in Crime, he is a regular contributor to the Sisters in Crime bi-monthly newsletter. His first novel, A KNIFE IN THE FOG, was a finalist for a 2019 Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America for best first novel by an American author.
I previously had a chance to read the authors earlier mystery, A KNIFE IN THE FOG, a tantalizing mystery that involves Arthur Conan Doyle and Jack the Ripper, which was an intense and well written read. In Queens GAMBIT, Bradley Harper turns to Margaret Harkness, a character that heavily featured in the previous book. I have to say that I heavily enjoyed Queens GAMBIT, and loved seeing how well fleshed out Margaret was. ( and yes, both Joseph Bell, on whom Sherlock Holmes is based as well as Arthur Conan Doyle also had cameos in the story.) What also was unique is that Bradley Harper gives voice to the villain of the tale, detailing the reasons on how and why he ended up the way he did.
I was given this book for a review
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)