Another of the author's leisurely evocations of Victorian London (Highgate Rise, 1991) by way of Police Inspector Thomas Pitt, whose latest case is the murder of moneylender-blackmailer William Weems. Pitt is surprised when asked by superior Micah Drummond to handle the case (it's out of Pitt's district), and to interview Drummond's friend Lord Byam, who was being blackmailed by Weems but denies any part in the killing. The blackmail involved the death, 20 years before, of Laura Anstiss, wife of Byam's longtime friend Lord Anstiss, a political and financial power. Pitt investigates other victims of Weems's cupidity, some of them in judiciary and police ranks of importance, and begins to uncover the sinister influence of a secret society. He's assisted by well-born, down-to-earth wife Charlotte, whose entree into London's highest society--through wealthy sister Emily--helps assess some of the possibilities. Pitt's dogged sleuthing produces a dramatic, surprising finale to an overlong story--its impact watered down by masses of repetitive, finicky detail and a plethora of subplots. Fans will love it, but even they might appreciate a little less padding.