________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 2 . . . . September 16, 2016


No Matter How Improbable. (A Portia Adams Adventure, Vol. 3).

Angela Misri. Illustrated by Sydney Smith.
Halifax, NS: Fierce Ink Press, 2016.
243 pp., trade pbk., $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-927746-72-1.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Ruth Latta.

*** /4



"You must think me terribly arrogant, Constable Dawes."

"Brian," he corrected, automatically, "and yes, you are. And what's more, you know you are. I don't even think you see it as a personal fault. And what is odd is that in you I don't see it as a fault, either. I think it's vital to who you are. That surety – that confidence – it's what allows you to see the way you do."

I nearly snorted at his description of me. Confident? Didn't he see how insecure I was about being compared with Holmes and Watson? At how bothered I was by losing Brian's friendship for even a short time?

He stepped forward, closing the last foot between us. "The thing is that I fooled myself into thinking that didn't apply to us." He smiled ruefully. "How's that for arrogance? I allowed myself to think that you saw us as equals… [Holmes] was above 'friends.'"

"Tears, Portia?" he whispered down at me. "I don't believe it."

I hadn't realized I was crying either, but before I could explain it away, he leaned down to kiss me.

In No Matter How Improbable, the third book in Angela Misri's "Portia Adams" adventure series, readers see Portia, granddaughter of both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, tackling three new cases: "Principessa"; "Evening the Score"; and "No Matter How Improbable." Two of the cases are interconnected, and all three are unified by the presence of Portia, Constable Brian Dawes, Dawes' reporter girlfriend Annie Coleson, and other recurring characters.

      Like Jewel of the Thames and Thrice Burned, this latest Portia Adams novel is based in London, England, in 1931. While Thrice Burned gave readers glimpses of human suffering during the Great Depression, No Matter How Improbable focuses on characters higher in society: an Italian princess, a bank manager, and a member of the Austrian nobility. Because the first case involves Italian politics, with a reference to El Duce (Mussolini), and the second involves Austria, one might expect that the deteriorating political situation in 1930s Europe would feature in the story, adding another dimension to it. This does not happen, but, no matter; aficionados will be pleased with the brief appearances of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, and will take pleasure in Portia's Sherlockian abilities of observation and deduction.

      The charm of seeing Portia's abilities in action, however, is not sufficient to offset the convoluted plots and large number of characters to keep straight. Instead of having three cases presented chronologically, it might have been better from a structural viewpoint to have one main case (or plot) and two lesser cases (subplots) going on at the same time, with the subplots contributing to the theme of the main plot by providing a comparable situation or else a contrasting one.

      While the large cast of characters and the intricacies of the three cases seem a bit much at times, the main area of interest is not the plot but the character of Portia, and whether or not she will form a romantic relationship with Constable Brian Dawes. As the novel opens, Portia has been seeing Dr. Gavin Whitaker, a coroner, and is contemplating joining him for a visit when he goes to Austria for several months as a visiting professor. Portia wishes for her mother's counsel: "She would know the proper time in a relationship to go away with one's boyfriend." Early in the novel, Portia says that her attraction to Gavin is "unemotional", and that, when she compares their relationship with others she has "studied up close", theirs seems the "most well-conceived." Readers who know that she and Brian are better suited will read on to find out whether the two of them will ever realize it.

      Those who enjoyed the first two Portia Adams adventures will like this new one, No Matter How Improbable.


Descriptions of Ruth Latta's "Delia Cornford" mysteries are on her books' blog, ruthlattabooks.blogspot.com.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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