Crowther and Westerman wade into the treacherous waters of the growing slavery debate in this excellent mystery, dark even by the standards of this stellar series. Author Robertson has never hesitated to face the difficult issues of her 18th century setting (1780s Britain) and treats the horrors of slavery with all the unflinching honesty and sensitivity I would expect, although I admit I am grateful to her for sparing the reader the worst of what she discovered in her extensive research, as she tells us in the Historical Note at the end.
This book opens with the discovery of the staked-out body of a former West Indies planter near St. Paul's Cathedral; suspicion at first falls on former slaves living in London. Gabriel Crowther and Harriet Westerman are deeply conflicted about investigating the death, knowing they will be drawn into the murky world of powerful, well-connected slave owners, traders and planters who will do anything to protect the source of their fortunes and influence; Britain's great wealth has been built largely on slave-based trade but it is a painful truth few want to face. Robertson personalizes the issue deftly through the varied experiences of Harriet's own senior footman William Geddings, freed slave turned bookseller Francis Glass, and successful fencing school owner Tobias Christopher.
I always anticipate the next book in this, one of my favorite historical mystery series, and I certainly hope Robertson adds Francis and Tobias to the ever-increasing circle of many-layered, fascinating recurring characters; since Harriet asked William to be her new steward I know we will meet him again - and he and his love, Dido the maid, will probably be married by then. Whether Harriet will come to her senses and marry Gabriel Crowther I have no idea, but hopefully sister Rachel's annoying matchmaking will finally take it's toll and Harriet will finally wise up!
- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Headline Review (22 May 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0755390156
- ISBN-13: 978-0755390151
- Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.3 x 24 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 599 g
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