- Author: Carol Hedges
- Published: November 2013 by Crooked Cat Publishing
- Category: Historical, Fiction, Mystery, Murder
When a horrific murder takes place on a dark night in 1860’s London, it changes two women for ever. New light is cast upon past lives they thought they knew so well, and suddenly their futures become intertwined.
After a dismal start in life, eighteen year old Josephine King was rescued from the Bertha Helstone Institute for Orphaned Clergy Daughters (the name itself enough to strike fear into the heart) by her uncle, Herbert King. Herbert made his fortune abroad and now lives very comfortably. Josephine delights in the unaccustomed luxury and looks forward to a very pleasing future. But her world is turned upside down when she has a visit from the police to say her uncle has been murdered in very mysterious circumstances. The two policemen, Detective Inspector Stride and Detective Sergeant Cully, are not having much luck solving the case.
As Josephine tries to make sense of her uncle’s death and the strange events that follow, she and her uncle’s mistress, Lilith Marks, set out to track down the murderer. Josephine, now an heiress and the owner of a priceless diamond, has strength of character and is not cowed by being a young woman on her own. And Lilith, a highly paid prostitute who, thanks to Herbert King’s bequest, can now start the business she has always dreamed of. Circumstances have forged an unlikely friendship between the two women.
A wonderfully memorable secondary cast, who are all completely believable in the context of Victorian London, include Oi, the impish road sweeper and Trafalgar Moggs, the clerk at the offices of King & Co. I love the complexity and detail of these characters, the determined Mrs Thorpe and her daughter Isabella who can’t face her future nuptials to the debauched George Osborne (!) Isabella’s brother, the equally distasteful Gussy, who her mother is trying to pair off with Josephine. An heiress is, after all, a very good catch.
The descriptions of Victorian London are incredibly vivid and invoke a sense of actually being there with all the dirt and grime, the stark contrasts and immense divide between the haves and the have-nots.
It is midnight, a full moon and a cold mist rising up from the river. Mist ghosts the masts of sloops and Russian brigs waiting to unload their cargo. Mist curls itself possessively around sooty chimneys and rooftops. Mist gently fingers its way into fetid courts and alleyways…….
Dark columns of smoke rise from a million massed chimneys, for London in 1860 is a filthy, stinking city. There are too many people, too much coal dust, too many horses, and too many cow sheds and abattoirs.
Carol Hedges has a very individual style of writing which, to be honest I was a little unsure about initially, but I was very soon drawn into the flow of the story. Full of humour and wit, greed, affluence and the darker side of human nature, the story explores all levels of society. It’s a very entertaining read with some unexpected twists and a satisfying ending.
About the author