First and foremost, a large thank you to David Field and Sapere Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
When I was given the chance to read an early copy of David Field’s newest novel, I knew it was not something I wanted to ignore. This second book in his new Victorian crime series is packed with action and a great deal of information from the time period. Field keeps the reader’s attention while spinning an duplicitous tale at a time when forensic advancements were afoot in the field of police work. When Dr. James Carlyle, a surgeon at the local London Hospital, receives a new body for autopsy, something familiar has him second guessing himself. The man before him is already dead, or was before his poisoning with digitalis. Carlyle reaches out to his sometimes colleague, Matthew West, who is a local Wesleyan street preacher. West’s interest is piqued, as he witnessed the man’s execution not long ago. Wondering if the hanging was a ruse, West returns to investigate a little more. While this is taking place, Dr. Carlyle’s daughter, Adelaide, is mounting her campaign to run for the London County Council, the first female candidate ever to do so. Without universal suffrage, she will have to appeal to the men of the district, many of whom do not take her seriously. With West agreeing to nominate her, Adelaide has high hopes of making a difference and cleaning up London as best she can. When news emerges that a second person with ties to the hanging turns up dead, Carlyle and West begin to wonder if a cover-up is taking place, though they cannot be sure who might be orchestrating it. West receives an interesting proposition by a wealthy London businesswoman, one Mary Miller, who wishes him to work with her to abolish capital punishment. While he is intrigued, there is something not entirely right about her. As West and Carlyle dig a little deeper, they discover that Mary Miller has quite the past, including an indirect tie to West himself. When more men turn up dead, the rush is on to discover who is killing them and what faking an execution might have done to advance someone’s cause. Miller seems innocent, but there is too much in her past to simply dismiss her as a suspect With all this going on, West is also trying to secure himself permanent employment and something even more important. There is little time to wait and much to do before a killer slips away, with additional targets sure to follow. A stunning addition to this new series, Field exemplifies that he is not an author to be taken lightly. Recommended to those who love a quick-paced mystery, as well as the reader who loves Victorian crime thrillers.
Having first come to know about David Field when I read some of his earlier Victorian novels in another series, I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining and educational his pieces can be. I was pleased to see Field return with a new series set in this same era, permitting him to expand on the mysteries of the time, but from a unique perspective. Field uses two strong protagonists, with hints that a third might be in the making. Matthew West continues to grow as a preacher to the poor and out of luck, though he seeks more. His amateur sleuthing ways work well for him as he tries to get to the bottom of the case at hand, though the pressure to find something permanent serves as an underlying bit of character development as the move gains momentum. West has some ideas, but is still too timid to take life by the horns and steer it in the direction he wants most. Dr. James Carlyle is both his colleague and polar opposite, with medical knowledge and life experience that makes him the more grounded of the two. Carlyle educates West (and the reader) to some of the new forensics being used, something called ‘fingerprints’, as well as the details of pharmaceutical poisonings. Carlyle reveals some interesting facts about the case, where possible, while also trying to parent Adelaide, who continues to stir up the pot with her women’s rights movement and attempts to win a seat on the London County Council. Adelaide becomes a third protagonist throughout this piece, pushing her ideas and keeping a constant eye on Matthew West, as their romantic chemistry seems to be building, though neither is ready to admit it to the other. Field uses other characters to enrich the reading experience, offering a great deal of flavouring to an exciting story. With an interesting premise, Field pulls on some of the sentiments surrounding capital punishment, women’s rights, and the dawn of forensic advancements to create this story that is as easy to read as it is captivating. With a mixture of chapter lengths, Field keeps the reader guessing what is to come with each plot reveal. The narrative flows really well and is peppered with great cockney slang to add a layer of realism to the banter between characters. I am eager to see what else the West-Carlyle duo (trio) undertake in upcoming pieces, especially with some of the revelations in the final chapter of this novel.
Kudos, Mr. Field, for keeping me entertained from cover to cover. I just saw the announcement of the series’ third novel and cannot wait to get my hands on it soon!
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons