The Posing Playwright (Esther and Jack Enright #5), 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. Having served Scotland Yard for a few years, Jack Enright is transferred into a new position in the Political Division, alongside his uncle, Percy. Together, they are tasked with protecting some of England’s upper crust and helping in similar capacities. It is around this time that playwright Oscar Wilde has brought suit against the Marquess of Queensberry for calling him a sodomite. The Enrights have been tasked with trying to collect additional information to support the claim that Wilde is anything but a friendly artist. An additional case has come to light, one that has Percy scratching his head. A member of the British Government, hailing from Ireland, has gone missing. Known not to support Irish Home Rule, he was last seen in his private rail car travelling on a train. Now, both the car and his lordship have disappeared into thin air, while the Fenian population remains coy about any recent actions. While Jack has been rubbing elbows with the ‘riff-raff’ and finding it harder to stomach the investigation into WIlde’s background, Percy is off learning everything there is about rail lines and how train cars are swapped at various points along the journey. Both are coming up short, though with a little insight from dear Esther Enright, the cases take interesting turns. With all eyes on the Old Bailey and the reputation of Wilde in the balance, there may be more than simply a missing politician gumming up the railway mystery. Another interesting tale with Field at the helm, as he entertains his readers with another quick read. Recommended for those who enjoy this series and the newcomer in need of a wonderfully crafted mystery that can be devoured in short order.

I was introduced to David Field and his work a while ago and feel that these novels have found a decent niche in the genre. I rushed through the first few novels in the series when contacted by the publisher, and knew that I would return as soon as more novels appeared in publication. Field uses Victorian England as his setting, though the focus seems less to be on the eerie aspects and simply on the type of character one might have normally found, tossing out the odd Cockney phrase. The story mixes in a handful of strong characters to propel this story forward, adding entertainment with a great dose of education, particularly as it relates to the way homosexuality was adjudicated at the time. Esther Enright, married and a mother of three (!!), again plays a smaller role, but she is used effectively as a voice of reason. Her banter with both her husband and uncle proves useful to counteract the sporadic and ‘fly off the handle’ mentality of the male Enrights. Jack and Percy are strong protagonists in their own rights. The reader is able to learn a little more about the way in which Victorian England handled sexual freedom, particularly male homosexuality, at the time. One must always remember the setting and time period before judging the characters’ sentiments too harshly. Field effectively reflects the time through Jack’s views and the experiences he has while investigating the case. Percy, on the other hand, becomes educated in the art of railways and all that can be contained within that vast area of knowledge. He is pleasant enough, though gritty when it comes to getting to the bottom of a case. Still, both men remain quite pigheaded, something that has driven them throughout the series and works well for the reader who enjoys a little entertainment. The secondary characters prove entertaining within the pages of this story, using clipped 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 and can be said to have a unique flavour, while keeping a decent pace. As always, there is a mix of quick and longer chapters that never hamper the narrative from moving forward. Field has little time to develop his plot, but injects a mix of drama and humour at the right moments, with dialogue banter to keep the reader feeling in the middle of the experience. The writing leaves the reader wanting more, surely 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: