A viscount investigating a murder for the crown is reunited with the beautiful daughter of a criminal he nabbed several years before.
Johnson (A Christmas Dance, 2014, etc.) returns with the first book in her new Victorian-era Thief Takers series. Owen Renderwell was awarded a viscountcy for service to the crown, but now he’s in a quandary. A string of robberies culminating with a murder is leading him back to an old investigation. William Walker, notorious swindler and thief, often used codes and ciphers to communicate with his colleagues. Similar codes are showing up in letters left at this latest series of crime scenes, but Walker died 8 years ago, and his daughter Charlotte, now living under an assumed name with her younger sister and brother, hasn’t forgiven Owen for her father’s death. Owen needs Lottie’s help to crack the code before the killer strikes again. But when he and his men visit Lottie in the country, they realize they’ve led the criminal right to the Walker children, which may have been the killer's intent all along. While Charlotte and Owen work to decipher the letters using William Walker’s old journals, someone besieges the house by setting fire to the barn and firing a gun through the window. Lottie and Owen must learn to trust each other amid a decade’s worth of lies and deception, and Lottie must face the fact that her 14-year-old brother is growing up and is not going to believe her whitewashed version of their family history forever. The author manages to surprise the reader time and again, making this a successful mystery novel, but the romance itself is rather humdrum and predictable.
This is worth a read because of the twists in the criminal investigation, in spite of a not-so-scintillating love story.