This is the third crime-solving adventure of Mina Holmes, the niece of Sherlock, and Evaline Stoker, the vampire-hunting sister of Bram, but their partnership is still uneasy to say the least. While petite Evaline is physically strong and highly impulsive, ready at a moment’s notice to barge in bashing heads and staking hearts, ungainly Mina is instead methodical in temperament, analytical in thinking, and clumsy in movement.
In spite of their differences, Mina and Evaline are both intent on unmasking and capturing The Ankh, an evil villainess they’ve been chasing since the first book, but Irene Adler (boss to Mina and Evaline, and “The Woman” to Mina’s Uncle Sherlock) and Princess Alexandra have asked (ordered) them to spend their time chaperoning Princess Lurelia of Betrovia instead.The highly delicate diplomatic situation between Betrovia and Britain dates back to Elizabeth I and involves love, betrayal, secret treasure, and the mysterious missing piece of an elaborate chess set. It’s important that Princess Lurelia be coddled and protected at all costs lest the two countries have another falling out, but the Princess is attacked almost at once, at the ball in her honor of her visit.
This series is silly, suspenseful, occasionally moving, and a lot of fun. I love the sometimes irritated banter between Mina and Evaline, and I enjoy seeing the world through their very different perspectives. I really adore the setting. The the two young women inhabit a colorful, Victorian, steam-powered London that would make a great travel destination. It’s a city layered with multi-leveled walkways connected by coin-driven mechanical lifts that keep those who are short on funds down below. While the higher levels of this London are amazing, gleaming, and gorgeous, complete with clever clockwork devices, animated twinkling lights, and the opulent upper floors of skyscrapers so tall they have large balloons to act as air anchors, the lower levels of the city are dirty, dank and dark, and the haunt of criminals.
The Chess Queen Enigma doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, but several things are left unresolved, leading me to hope there will be a fourth book. I read an ebook advanced review copy of this book supplied by the publisher through Edelweiss. Review opinions are mine.