Holloway is gone and Jack is alone. Alone with his thoughts and his pain and his anger. Somehow, all this time, Holloway knew that Jack’s mother was a Watson. And that almost hurts even more. What does it mean to be a Watson? Does that mean that his connection with Holloway, the love that was slowly growing between them, was nothing more than fate? That if Jack hadn’t been a Watson, had just been a normal kid who knew how to score some Adderall, that he and Holloway wouldn’t have had a connection? And before Jack could digest the information and figure out the questions he wanted to ask, the questions he needed to ask, Holloway was gone.
When a mysterious invitation arrives to the Zodiac anniversary party, Jack can’t not go. Like a moth to a flame, he will grab at any chance to find Holloway again. Instead, there’s a robbery, a gunfight, and an angry Holloway telling him to go away. You know, the usual.
The game’s afoot (again) and this time Jack refuses to let go.
Following some weeks after the events taking place in The Old Wheel, book 2 in the Adventures of Holloway Holmes series, this story deals with the descendants of the Holmes, Moriarty, Adler, and Watson bloodlines, with the intricate and tangled knots of history, obligation, and obsession. And Jack. Jack who is new to all this, who doesn’t care about how wealthy his Holmes is, doesn’t care about Blackfriar’s threats. He just wants the boy he loves back at his side, safe and secure.
Jack loves Holloway with the desperation of someone who knows that the thing he loves could be taken away from him in an instant. Holloway doesn’t always eat, never takes care of himself, and pushes his body beyond what it can take. He’s also a genius, a trained fighter, literal to a fault, and — as Jack grows to realize, more fully than he’d guessed in previous books — a victim. Holloway’s father is a monster who abuses his son, neglects his daughter, and is, Jack is pretty sure, responsible for Sarah Watson (the catalyst for their meeting in The Strangest Forms, book 1 of the series), though he has no proof. Nothing but his gut, and Holloway isn’t going to listen to that.
Holloway is devoted to his father, knows that his father is hard on him because he wants Holloway to be perfect. And of course, he isn’t. So Holloway tries harder, works longer, drives himself into exhaustion to try to gain a moment of his father’s approval — and it tears Jack apart. He loves Holloway, sees how he throws himself, like a moth, against the flame of his father’s brilliance only to be burned again and again. And no matter how often he tries to show Holloway the truth, it never works. It only drives Holloway further away from him.
As always, the banter in the book is on point. Jack is a shit to the people in power because he knows he has nothing to lose. He doesn’t have their education, their money, their henchpeople … but he has wits, and a certain sort of charm, and all the bravado in the world:
“Well,” I said. “Did you want something?”
“I always want something; that’s the nature of being a Moriarty. What about you, Jack? Do you want something?”
“Do you have those little pretzel dogs?”
Her smile tightened. “We should talk, Jack.”
“Uh, sounds great. Tell you what: you get a head start, and I’ll catch up.”
He never wins in a battle of wits, but he’s a scrappy fighter full of heart and an inexorable drive to be at Holloway’s side. And their romance is sweet and gentle, even in the midst of blood and betrayal:
“I don’t know how to undo what I did, Jack. I’m afraid I’ve lost you. I’m afraid if I’ve lost you again, it will kill me, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot—I cannot stop it from hurting.”
“You didn’t lose me. I’m right here.” I carded his hair again and smiled up at him. “We’re both right here.” He shook his head again.
“You didn’t lose me,” I said. “Did I lose you?”
Another shake of the head. “
Then we’re ok,” I said. “We can figure out the rest of it together.”
Seeing Holloway go from the cold, brittle, and emotionally distant young man to someone willing and able to ask for what he wants — for there to be an end to their fight, for Jack to forgive him, to love him again, to let Holloway love him back — is sweet. His character growth is done so well, for all that it’s almost entirely from Jack’s biased and limited point of view. Jack, himself, has grown. He’s more mature, focused, and resourceful. And he’s still a young, foolish, 17-year old who makes bad decisions, stupid mistakes, and has to struggle to think with his brain and not his dick.
This book ends the Holloway Holmes series, though there is a small collection of short stories that will show some events from the book through Holloway’s eyes, which I’m looking forward to reading, and it’s bittersweet to be done with this book. I enjoyed seeing Jack and Holloway grow closer, support one another, and become happier people. This series has been so much fun, with the Easter eggs and homages, and I think any fan of the original Holmes books would like it. I just can’t help but wish the series went on a few dozen books more …