Crooked In His Ways by S.M. Goodwin

Crooked in His Ways  (Lightner and Law Mystery #2)Barbara’s Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Series: Lightner and Law Mystery #2
Publication Date: 9/7/21
Period: New York, 1857
Number of Pages: 336

This series is based on the delightful premise of pairing a wealthy, aristocratic, proper, stuttering son of an English Duke with an Irish-American partner who was raised in an orphanage in the slums of New York. While it sounds like a recipe for failure of the partnership – oil and water don’t mix – it turns out to be quite engaging and a great pairing of complementary strengths and talents. I did not read the first book in the series, and while I don’t feel that it detracted from this story, I do think it would have provided a better foundational understanding of Lightner’s being in New York. Still, I didn’t need that to enjoy the story.

There is definitely a LOT going on in the story and you’ll have to pay close attention as you read or you won’t keep it all straight. We have multiple victims and hundreds of suspects. The victim who sets the case in motion is found in multiple pieces – packed with salt – in a crate on a New York City dock. With nothing on the body to identify the victim, Lightner and Law start out behind the eight-ball. When they finally identify him, they discover what a despicable man he was and discover a list of people he has been blackmailing. Any one of the people on the list could be the murderer – or it could be someone they’ve not even heard of yet. Then, there are more bodies of people associated with the case that turns up. Uh-Oh — busy times ahead!

While the investigation continues, we meet some really unsavory characters as suspects. While we root for one or all of those unsavory people to be the culprit, we also root for those very likable characters to find happiness after they are out from under the thumb of the blackmailer. Lightner and Law’s lives are at risk multiple times – and that is particularly dangerous for Lightner who was severely injured in the Crimea and now has a metal plate in his head and holes in his memory.

I enjoyed watching Lightner and Law become closer friends and seeing their respect for each other grow. I loved Paisley, Lightner’s valet, as well as his cook, a freed slave named Mrs. Freedman. I thought the addition of the street urchin/pickpocket, John Sparrow, to the household was a great idea. I thoroughly enjoyed his character and I think he’ll be a marvelous addition to the series. One character I didn’t care for – and I hope he disappears from the series, is the ‘boss’, Captain Davies.

I chose not to read the first book of the series because – and this is totally a personal flaw – I don’t usually seem to enjoy books set in New York City – especially during the time this book takes place. However, I heard so many good things about the first book that I decided to give the second one a try. I’ll quickly admit I still did not enjoy the setting – but I did enjoy the writing, the story, and the characters. It was a bit darker and grittier than I normally enjoy, but it had a bit of lightness woven into it since Lightner is assigned a dog-napping case. The dog in question is owned by one of the richest men in New York and he has personally requested that Lightner handle the case.

I can recommend this book to you if you don’t mind darker, grittier reads. If you require a bit of romance with your mysteries, I can tell you this series doesn’t have any – at least not yet. I really enjoyed the characters, but I didn’t enjoy the turbulence in New York City while the story was unfolding. Yes, I understand that is what was happening at the time, it just isn’t my prime choice. All of that said, I will probably go back and read the first book in the series and then I’ll decide if I’ll want to read more. Again, this is a personal thing because it is darker than I normally like and set in a place/time I don’t normally care for. The writing is excellent and the story is fast-paced and well-delivered.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Avid reader/reviewer of historical romance and historical mysteries.

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