I regularly look at the murder mystery offerings on Netgalley and this one caught my eye as something different and intriguing…
September, 1841. A new arrival has taken London society by storm. Lord Byron’s handsome illegitimate son, George, recently arrived from the exotic island of Cephalonia in the company of his guardian, the mysterious Mr Vickery, has been setting female hearts aflutter. But not all the attention George attracts is welcome. Mr Vickery has been receiving disturbing letters from a woman who calls herself Helena, and he hires Liberty Lane to find out who Helena is and what she wants.
Of course, the catch is that it is the eighth book in the series, so would I find myself floundering at all? Nope, not for a second. Peacock is far too adroit and experienced a writer to fall into that pitfall and from the first page, I was pulled into this twisting story where the plot snaked in all sorts of unexpected avenues. So I had to read it in one greedy gulp to find out exactly where it was going.
Liberty Lane is clearly a remarkable young woman as a female investigator at a time when her male counterparts were looked down upon with contempt and suspicion – obviously there is a hefty backstory here. But I certainly found myself believing in the 19th century London streets depicted by Peacock and as a historian, there were no glaring anomalies that yanked me out of the story. Without holding up the action or pace, all sorts of little details contributed to make the world vividly convincing – and I very much liked the fact that she does not expect her horses to go galloping or cantering everywhere, which they generally didn’t.
I also enjoyed her characterisation. Alongside Liberty, there is a supporting cast who leap off the page – the beautiful, blind George is suitably enigmatic and Mr Vickery is by turns exasperating and open-hearted. But Liberty’s small team help to bring this story alive – it seemed entirely plausible that she would be on good terms with an experienced horseman, Amos, running a livery stable, for she often needs sudden access to transport and the main mode of transport back then is horsepower. Young Tabby, a streetgirl part of a gang of children surviving on their wits, is also a regular gatherer of information for Liberty.
However, while the setting is vividly depicted and the characters believable and entertaining, what sets this murder mystery apart is the sheer skill and dexterity of Peacock’s plotting. Just when I thought the story was off in one direction, it snapped around and the momentum and stakes were cinched ever higher. Of course, this means the ultimate climactic denouement has to not only deliver in terms of plenty of action and high drama, but also resolve all that tension entirely satisfactorily. And yes, this one certainly did. I have not read any of these mysteries before, but I’ll certainly be looking out for more – if your taste runs to historical murder mysteries with plenty of tension and action, then this one comes very highly recommended.
While I obtained the arc of Fool’s Gold from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.