The author continues his exploration of life in late 19th-century London, with rough-hewn City of London policeman Sergeant...

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TINCTURE OF DEATH

The author continues his exploration of life in late 19th-century London, with rough-hewn City of London policeman Sergeant Bragg and his well-born aide, Constable James Morton. Here, the two are confronted with the deaths of three prominent citizens, all connected in some way with the pros and cons of the opium trade--legal in that era but hotly debated by merchants, missionaries, politicians, and others. Sir Fergus Jardine, William Hewitt, and Arthur Peace--members of the Royal Commission on the opium trade, fellow passengers on the SS Rome returning from India--have all been poisoned by a mysterious substance, in each instance after drinking red wine. Bragg and Morton turn up lots of suspects: an embittered ex-employee; a secret mistress; a childhood friend of Morton's--now living in wretched poverty with a brutish, heavily addicted artist--and others passionately devoted to one side or other of the opium question. It's one of those devotees who's finally nabbed by Bragg--in an unconvincing flash of inspiration. The hackneyed murder-method, diffuse plot, and over-leisurely tempo make for a puzzle less compelling than the almost forgotten, fascinating chapter in the history of the drug trade that Harrison brings to life. It makes this latest mystery of his worth reading.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 1989

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1989