Toronto-based journalist and author Angela Misri’s Jewel of the Thames is an homage to a never-ending source of cultural fascination: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. The book, which begins in 1929, revolves around 19-year-old Portia Adams, a quick-witted but solitary young woman who unexpectedly inherits the detective’s legendary London townhouse at 221B Baker Street following the death of her mother. Portia, whose family history has always been unknown to her, discovers she is actually the granddaughter of Holmes’s partner, Dr. John Watson. When she moves into her new home, she endeavours to learn as much as possible about her grandfather and the famous detective, with assistance from her new guardian, Irene Jones.
The novel is structured like one of Watson’s casebooks, and features three separate cases that Portia becomes involved in while she explores her new surroundings in London and studies law at a local university. She finds herself dreaming of solving crimes like Holmes and Watson, and develops a strong rapport with (and perhaps attraction to) Brian Dawes, the newly minted Scotland Yard constable who lives with his parents in the first-floor flat at Baker Street.
Portia’s insatiable curiosity and passion for mysteries is palpable, and she soon finds herself investigating everything from a foul-smelling jewel thief to a missing child on a moving train. It’s fun following the clues, but Jewel of the Thames succeeds equally well in showing how Portia grows along the way: one case reminds her of the responsibility involved in making accusations, another adopts surprising moral complexity, exploring the question of when crime might be justified.
Even for teens who haven’t yet encountered Doyle’s stories, Portia Adams will prove to be a whip-smart, worthy new heroine.