Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Carnelian Crow

The Carnelian Crow

Colleen Gleason
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Chronicle Books, 2017   ISBN: 978-1944665333

For two months now Mina Holmes has been adrift. After her last case fell apart in a most spectacular way, her career working for Princess Alexandra to solve cases was brought to a close. Such a deprivation has been difficult for the young woman who thrives on solving puzzles, and who loves to use her sharp mind to bring villains down. One night Mina is mulling over her sorry circumstances, once again, when she hears a tapping on the window. When she gets out of bed to investigate she discovers that a crow is responsible for the noise; it is tapping on the glass with its beak. Mina opens the window to scare the bird off, but instead she accidentally lets it in the room. The bird drops a small package that it brought with it before flying out of the open window.

When Mina investigate the contents of the small package she finds that it contains a small pendant of a red cloisonné crow, and on the back of the pendent is a marking of two Cs that are facing each other. Mina is examining the pendent using her Ocular Magnifier when someone starts knocking on the door. The visitor is Inspector Grayling of Scotland Yard, and when he sees the pendent he becomes very grave indeed.

Apparently the pendent represents the Carnelian Crow, a club of sorts where “very seedy activities happen,” some of which are certainly on the wrong side of the law. Grayling has been trying to find out more about the organization for some time, with very limited success. The place is well hidden and no one will talk about it. He warns Mina not to attempt to seek out the Carnelian Crow.

Naturally Mina completely ignores the inspector’s warning and she sets of to confer with her former associate, Evaline Stoker. She is hopeful that Evaline’s friend Pix, who has many contacts in London’s criminal underworld, will be able to help her find out more about the Carnelian Crow.

When she gets to Evaline’s home, she finds out that Pix appears to be missing. Evaline tried to find him and apparently he has been missing ever since the chess queen case. Evaline offers to take Mina to the pub that Pix uses as his home base. However, before they go there they need to get Evaline some clothes that are more suitable for adventures in a dangerous part of the city.

The young ladies go to Lady Thistles shop, and while Evaline is trying some clothes on in the only dressing room, Mina goes to a back room to try on a skirt, which is where she finds the familiar motif of the two Cs facing each other carved into the bottom of a door. Further investigation reveals that beyond the door is a storage closet, and in the closet is a concealed door that may, just may, lead to the Carnelian Crow.

When the young ladies confer afterwards Mina reveals that she knows that Evaline’s family is in dire financial straits. In fact they are so badly off that Evaline’s sister-in-law has told Evaline in no uncertain terms that they need her to find a wealthy husband, and she needs to be quick about it. Evaline could refuse to comply, but she cares for her brother and his family and wants to help them. She has no choice but to allow her sister-in-law to arrange introductions for her.

Though she is distracted by this very sorry state of affairs, Evaline still insists on helping Mina to find out more about the Carnelian Crow. They soon discover that Pix must know something about the Carnelian Crow because he has hidden one of the red crow pendants in his safe house for Mina and Evaline to find. The problem is that there is still no sign of Pix.

The young ladies make arrangements to visit Lady Thistles shop in the middle of the night, but when they get there they discover that the proprietress has been murdered and the hidden door has been bricked up. Someone is determined to prevent them from investigating further.

What complicates a very complicated situation even further is the fact that the Ankh, their old enemy, is up to her tricks again. Clearly she has a new plan brewing and they better find out what it is soon.

This fourth book in the Holmes and Stoker series catapults Mina and Evaline into another mystery that brings them face to face with enemies old and new. Evaline also faces the prospect of having to marry to save her family from financial ruin and social disgrace. Life is certainly complicated for the two young women who just want to be allowed to solve mysteries in peace.