Anne Cartier’s hazardous trip from France to England with her cousin Beverly Parker is rendered even more dangerous by domestic skullduggery.
Anne goes to visit her ailing grandfather; Beverly hopes to persuade her estranged husband Thomas to a divorce so that she can continue living in Nice with her lover. There’s a checkered history behind her quest. In 1773, the Parker family’s dying patriarch left his estate near Bristol to his oldest legitimate son, Oliver, enraging his oldest illegitimate son, sea captain Seth Judd. Nine years later, Oliver and his wife died in a shipwreck from which Seth escaped; the couple’s fragile, deaf daughter Janice was given into the care of Thomas and Beverly. Now, in 1789, Anne and her grandfather arrive in Bath to find all the members of the Parker family at odds and Janice, who will inherit her father’s wealth, in a precarious position. Knowing that the girl narrowly escaped being crushed by a building stone in London, Anne takes responsibility for Janice. A retired Bow Street officer and Admiralty judge, who were never satisfied with Judd’s explanation of the shipwreck, hope to bring him down now that he is a well-known smuggler. When Thomas is poisoned at the famous Bath Tea Room, Anne risks her life to protect Janice and help bring Judd to justice.
Though O’Brien’s meticulous period mysteries always provide the pleasures of historical detail, this one lacks the tension of many past efforts (Assassins’ Rage, 2008, etc.).