Murder, international intrigue and chimney sweeping in Victorian London.
Bound for the gallows after poisoning her abusive husband in 1863, housekeeper Eliza Hogg presents chimney sweeper Tom Wasp with a ticket that allows him to redeem a shabby doll from a seedy pawnbroker. Inside the doll, he and his apprentice Ned find a statue of Kwan-yin, goddess of mercy. Though her expression is mild, she’s been nothing but trouble ever since George Hogg carried her off during the looting and burning of the Pekin [sic] Palace on Sir Laurence Mallerby’s watch. Dinah Johnson, a maid in Sir Laurence’s home, is soon found strangled, and her father Billy, head of the formidable Rat Mob, doesn’t agree with the police that her sweetheart, German clarinet player Erich Mayer, was her killer. Billy Johnson presses Tom (Tom Wasp and the Murdered Stunner, 2007) to investigate further, even though that means putting him in danger from the even more fearsome Nichol Gang. Tom’s search for the murderer, and for the mysterious “putter-up” who’s directing the Nichol Mob’s criminal operations, leads him into deeper waters than he can imagine. The statue of Kwan-yin has become a pawn in a complex power play among European powers struggling to prevent a threatened assassination—or, it could be, to provide the assassins aid and comfort.
Oliver Twist meets The Moonstone, with a healthy dose of period language, mores and detail thrown in. A lively treat for Victorian buffs, though heavier going for those outside.