This is the third book about The Athena Club, a group of female characters from fantastic literature who work together to solve crimes and mysteries, along the lines of “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” but not derivative except for a few crossover characters. The Athena Club are sisters Mary Jekyll and Diana Hyde of Stevenson’s book, Beatrice Rappaccini from “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Catherine Moreau, the lone surviving beast-woman from Well’s “Island of Dr. Moreau,” and Justine Frankenstein, the intended bride of Frankenstein’s creation. Other characters from literature abound, including Ayesha from H. Rider Haggard’s “She,” Dorian Gray, and Sherlock Holmes, Watson and the Baker Street Irregulars.
While I loved the first book, which introduced the characters and explored their origins and history, the second took them on a case in Europe that I found somewhat flawed but still enjoyed. This third book takes place mostly in London and Cornwall, and is as satisfying as the first one. One narrative technique that’s distracting is that Catherine is the “author” of the book, and her writing is often interrupted by comments to her from the others about what she’s writing. This tends to pull me out of the story, but at times is entertaining too. There’s plenty of excitement in the plot as Moriarty is gathering a gang of shady characters himself with a plan to kidnap Queen Victoria and take over England, while on a personal level the Athena Club is searching for their maid and friend Alice, who has gone missing along with Holmes and Watson. Thrilling scenes take place in the British Museum as well as on the coast of Cornwall, and despite their abilities, the Athena Club has formidable odds to overcome.
A good and enjoyable read, as are the first two, and recommended for those who want to get away from today’s harsh realities.