The. Slum Reaper (Esther and Jack Enright #4), by David Field

Eight stars

Victorian England’s criminal element comes to life in the writing of David Field. The reader can be assured of another strong Esther and Jack Enright tale, chock full of mystery and intrigue. After saving two young children in a harrowing act of bravery, young Inspector Jack Enright is sidelined with a severely broken leg. Not wanting to suffer from too much work atrophy, he accepts a temporary secondment to Records, while his uncle, Detective Sergeant Percy Enright holds down the fort within the Metropolitan Police. When Jack is recuperating, his wife, Esther comes to him with an odd request. Their neighbour’s niece seems to have gone missing without reason. While Jack is not able to convince his uncle to open a formal investigation, it does come on the heels of a number of gruesome discoveries in another part of London. The bodies of a few lower-class citizens have been uncovered in the debris of a recently razed building that is scheduled to be quickly rebuilt. Sergeant Enright begins an investigation and soon discovers that the builders may have hired a rent collector who had a strong-fisted way of handling those who refused to pay. This missing girl, Emily Broome, was a governess in a well-to-do home, though it is only upon pressing the matter that Enright learns that the twin boys have also gone missing. Enright continues to press for information as a new body is found in the rubble, one that matches Broome’s description. With no sign of the children, Enright is forced to juggle two cases, seemingly off the books, and use his nephew to press for leads amongst the criminal records of some in London’s underbelly. Unable to procure all the information needed, Percy and Jack press Esther to return to her role of unpaid, undercover agent for the Metropolitan Police. What Esther learns may be invaluable, though someone has their eye on her (again!) and will stop at nothing to keep the truth from coming out. Field presents another winner in this series. While the story may be brief, it should not indicate anything less than a stellar reading experience. Perfect for those who love Victorian murder mysteries and prefer something that can be read in short order.

I was introduced to David Field and his work not too long ago and feel that these novels have found a decent niche in the genre. After devouring a few novels for the publisher, I knew that I would return as soon as more novels appeared in publication. Field uses Victorian England yet again as an eerie setting, mixing in a handful of strong characters to propel this story forward. This turns a compact plot into something both exciting and easy to enjoy. Esther Enright, married and a mother of two, again plays a smaller role, but she is used effectively as a decoy and undercover agent. Her banter with many of the characters provides a lighter thread in the story, but she is also keen on injecting her own wisdom with a wonderful female perspective. Jack also takes a backseat in this piece, but has come to grow into fatherhood effectively and serves to prop-up his uncle effectively throughout this story. Jack and Esther continue complementing one another so well as they work yet another crime together, in new and exciting roles. The novel is surely one in which Detective Sergeant Percy Enright not only steals the spotlight, but has much development as he cracks the case wide open. Field has effectively used Percy in the past, but it was this novel that I felt he stepped out of his nephew’s shadow and served to propel the story forward in an effective manner. The secondary characters prove entertaining within the pages of this story, using Cockney speech and salty sayings to take the reader inside the less refined parts of London while also allowing a sense of being in the middle of the action. The story flows well, unique from past pieces, and keeps a decent pace, with a mix of quick and longer chapters that never hamper the narrative from moving forward. Field has but a short time to develop his plot, but injects a mix of dram and humour into the piece, with decent dialogue banter, when time permits. The writing leaves the reader wanting more, the sign of a well-developed story. Field has done a masterful job with these novels and I await another book in the near future. I can only hope that Field will continue crafting these addictive stories for fans who find them so enthralling.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for this wonderful novel. I am eager to read more Esther and Jack stories and hope others will follow my lead.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: