Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars (I’d give it more if I could)
Series: Wrexford and Sloane #2
Publication Date: 3/27/18
Penrose’s second book in the Wrexford and Sloane series provides intriguing insights into the main characters pasts and their relationship as well as a mystery that will keep you guessing right up to the very end. The book is fast-paced and very well written. It can certainly be read as a stand-alone book, but you’ll miss all of those formative interactions among all of the characters and their relationships with each other. I’ve now read both books in the series and they are both outstanding!
The Regency period sees the very early beginning and the burgeoning of social and technological changes within England. Science and technological innovation were changing the way people lived and worked. Social order was beginning to change as well and was constantly challenged by satirical cartoonists who were actually quite powerful in molding public opinion. I think that the fact that our author chose Sloane as a very gifted and influential satirical cartoonist and Wrexford as an earl who is a gifted scientist is a big part of what makes this series very appealing to me. The characters are wonderful, fully-developed, humorous, brave and intelligent and when you add in an excellent dose of great history and an excellent mystery, you just can’t go wrong.
Wrexford is a bored, pragmatic, cynical, emotionless man who is also a gifted scientist. He governs his life by scientific principles. No emotions, only empirical evidence, and the step-by-step scientific process need apply! That is – unless Charlotte is involved and then – well maybe it is a little harder to be pragmatic and emotionless.
Charlotte Sloane has secrets – many secrets. Wrexford knows some of her secrets, but not all of them. One of Charlotte’s secrets is that she is the political satirist known as A. J. Quill. It is very important that she keep that secret, though Wrexford knows it, because it is how she earns her living. Were it to become known that A. J. Quill was a woman, nobody would publish her work and she would starve. Charlotte also has a large network of street urchins (boys and girls) as well as other important contacts that keep her up-to-date on what is going on. She always seems to be one step ahead of everyone else when it comes to her cartoons. Charlotte is also a pragmatic lady who always strives to control her emotions.
The prologue begins with a heart-pumping chase through the worst part of London. A thick mist from the river is covering the area and the wind is howling (I love the word the author used – skirled – isn’t that perfect it). Our victim is new to London and is hopelessly lost – and finally – he is brutally attacked and killed. Elihu Anthony is an inventor who is on the cusp of patenting a brilliant ground-breaking new technology that will increase the power of steam engines. The patent is worth a fortune for whoever manages to file for it first. Now – what will happen to the patent? Is it the Luddites who are trying to prevent the patent? Is it a greedy investor? Is it family?
Wrexford and his friend Christopher Sheffield are returning home from a gaming hell and take a route through the more unsavory parts of town and discover a lifeless and mutilated body at Half Moon Gate. Not only is the body mutilated, but his clothes are cut and ripped at the seams. Wrexford and Sheffield notify Bow Street, give their account and then go on home. Later, Wrexford is visited by Isobel, the wife of Mr. Anthony and she asks him to solve the case because Bow Street isn’t taking it seriously. That sets us off on a chase that leads to places and events you wouldn’t imagine. There are so many suspects and all of them are very viable – but you won’t guess who the real culprit is until almost the very end (unless you peek).
Raven and Hawk are featured again in this book and they are delightful. They are the street urchins that Charlotte taken into her life and is trying to encourage them to actually live with her and give up their street ways. They are leery of doing that, but she’s winning them over.
Click on the title to see my review of the first book – Murder on Black Swan Lane.
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