Plague Pits & River Bones by Karen Charlton

Plague Pits & River Bones (Detective Lavender Mysteries #4)Plague Pits & River Bones by Karen Charlton

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Detective Lavender #4
Publication Date: 1/11/18

Holy shades of Sherlock! I do believe Detective Lavender has met his Moriarty. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t know, but can’t wait to find out as the series continues. I certainly don’t want him to become a focus in the series, but popping up every now and again to create havoc could be a very interesting thing indeed!

One of my favorite things about this series is the interweaving of actual people, facts and events with the fiction. Detective Stephen Lavender was an actual Principal Officer of the Bow Street Runners and the author weaves his actual cases and events into the stories. In this one, she uses the real assassination of England’s Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, in 1812. This author does in-depth research before writing her books and then seamlessly blends fact and fiction. The stories are fast-paced, well-plotted, well written, intriguing and filled with wonderfully interesting and relatable characters.

Bow Street received a pittance from Parliament each year. There was no way they could police the area they were required to police and still manage to operate within that budget. The clever Magistrate Read, Lavender’s boss, found a way to supplement their income. Based on that income, he had begun a much needed building addition with additional holding cells, courtrooms, etc. The additional income adding to the Bow Street coffers came from assigning his much-sought-after Principal Detectives to cases in other areas of England – where they were paid handsomely for their services.

“Gawd’s teeth!” is how our story begins in May of 1812. Constables Ned Woods and Barnaby encounter a completely naked man cavorting on the beach in Greenwich. Ned recognizes the man as an escaped bedlamite and after a bit of a scuffle, they capture the man and get him back to Bow Street. It seems things just head downhill from there – for Bow Street.

Detective Lavender returns to London after the successful completion of an out of town case that kept him away for two weeks, only to discover that he is the ONLY Principal Officer in town and everything falls on his shoulders. Not only is he to get all of the cases, but the Magistrate wants him to leave for another out of town case – this time in Ireland. Stephen is not a happy camper!

Crime seems to be running rampant in London. There are rumors, unsubstantiated but believable, of a new gang with a wily leader that is now operating within London. Lavender has to deal with a plethora of cases – large and small – and slowly begins to wonder if they could all somehow be related. There are blatant highway robberies where the thieves seemed to know the victims along with when they were traveling and what they were transporting. Then you have the murder of a Baron that draws in sweet Duddles (you’ll know him from previous books) – not to mention that he is having to keep tabs on a man (formerly a rich merchant) who is bitter at the government. Adding to that list is the discovery that Ned Woods made when corralling the escaped bedlamite – he found a severed foot. Magistrate Read doesn’t want Lavender working on that find, but it intrigues Lavender, so he adds that to his list of cases he’s juggling.

This story is fast-paced and crimes are popping up all over and you begin to wonder how you’ll ever keep them straight and how Lavender will ever solve all of them. Then, you begin to notice a pattern and you begin to wonder . . . . hmmmmm. You think you know who one of the villains is early on, but you learn more and more as you go on and – WOW! You won’t want to take a break from reading – because – something exciting might happen while you are away and you would miss it!

This story is a bit darker than the others in the series, but not too dark. There is a bit of humor too with Magdalena’s maid being taught English words by her want-to-be beau. For instance – Magdalena asks the maid if Lavender’s bath water is hot enough. The answer was that it was “very peppery”.

I love all of the supporting characters in the book, but particularly the relationship between Lavender and Woods. They are great friends and would do anything for each other. Their conversations are just great – Ned is older and offers Lavender great advice – such as – Ned has given Lavender the advice to give his wife back rubs. He’s suggested it several times, so Lavender asks “Ned, what’s this obsession you have with back rubs?” To which Ned replies “Well, that’s good. One thing leads to another . . .” Other memorable characters are Duddles, the young lover of Magdalena’s friend and young Eddie Woods, the thirteen year old son of Ned Woods.

Another thing to like is the believability of the story and the consequences. For instance – when Lavender is trapped in an old building and is submerged in brackish, contaminated river water, he didn’t just walk out unscathed. He was seriously sickened as would have happened in real life.

You could read this as a stand-alone book, but I cannot, for the life of me, think why you would want to. The character development and growth throughout the series is well worth the time to read – not to mention all of the stories are GREAT! So, Happy reading – I just know you’ll love it.

Please see my reviews of the other books in the series here!…

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“I requested and received this e-book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”


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Avid reader/reviewer of historical romance and historical mysteries.

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