Fabio would be right at home on the cover of this historical romance by the creator of Superintendent Mike Yeadings (Close Quarters, 1997, etc.). But it’s nonetheless a bona fide mystery, offering at least two dripping-red bodies as well as kidnappings, forgeries, and mistaken identities, among the manifold puzzles surrounding the identity of Curzon’s heroine. At age nine, she learns that the man she called her father, the Vicomte Sedgwick, was her mother’s second husband. Later she finds documents indicating that her mother’s original married name had been Fabrizio, but that her father’s had been Gabrieli. Her name should be Lucy de Verville, courtesy of a wartime marriage to handsome, sophisticated Julian de Verville (born Julian Veal). But it’s Lucy Sedgwick she’s called, and it’s to Sedgwick Manor she flees, baby in tow, after waking, alone and disoriented, in a strange house to find a stranger’s bloody corpse on the floor. Younger brother Edwin takes her in, and as her health improves, she remembers another equally brutal death—that of her husband Julian. From the moment of Julian’s death to her awakening in that derelict room in Covent Garden, however, Lucy’s mind remains a blank page. Edwin pins his hope for Lucy’s recovery on the skills of medical student Clive Malcolm. But Edwin’s hope may be Lucy’s despair if Malcolm’s probings prove her a killer.
Wheels within wheels drive this 1921 period tale a little too near the edge sometimes, yet never far enough to prevent enjoyment.