From a distance of 27 years, barrister Jeremy Proctor recalls the fourth case in which, as a boy, he assisted Sir John Fielding, the blind Magistrate of the Bow Street Court (Watery Grave, 1996, etc.). The case this time is a ghastly one: the murders of five Covent Garden prostitutes. The more fortunate victims have been dispatched by surgically precise stab wounds to the chest; the others have been violated after death in ways that show how little the 18th century yields to the 20th in the matter of disgusting spectacles. (One enterprising widower is caught in the act of charging admission to the scene of his wife's recent demise and selling off her organs as souvenirs.) The usual broad palette of local color is guaranteed when suspicion falls successively on a Grenadier Guard, a Jewish outcast--whom Oliver Goldsmith is called upon to vindicate--and a butcher who would've thought twice about reporting his gruesome discovery if he'd known the price he'd pay. Through it all, Sir John shines as a dealer of summary justice, and Jeremy as a plucky and adventurous lad who dreams of using the enormous reward of ten pounds to buy a streetwalker's freedom from her brutish pimp. Jeremy's adventures, especially, are many and exciting, and every dingy corner of London reeks of squalor and danger. The only thing that's missing is detection; even after the perps are caught in the act, there's precious little evidence against them. It's lucky for Sir John that he's a magistrate and not a barrister himself.