The famous London Frost Fair of 1814, which took place on the frozen River Thames, provides the chilling backdrop to a death caused by a woman’s desire to cast off the shackles of her unhappy life.
On a bitterly cold and snowy day, Hero Devlin, a reformer who often visits some of London’s most squalid areas, stumbles over the body of Jane Ambrose, piano teacher to Princess Charlotte, the prince regent’s daughter. Hero sends for her husband, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, knowing that the death of someone close to the princess will be made to look like an accident—which it might indeed have been if the body had not been moved from another place. Hero and Devlin, no strangers to mystery (Where the Dead Lie, 2017, etc.), resolve to find the truth even though it will be both difficult and dangerous. Hero’s father, Charles, Lord Jarvis, the regent’s cousin and hatchet man, will do nothing to help her. The peevish, petulant regent, hated by most of the populace, is intent on divorcing his wife and keeping his daughter isolated from society because she’s more popular than he is. The couple’s sleuthing turns up all too many possible killers, ranging from Jane’s husband to Nathan Rothschild, and motives, from jealousy to dangerous secrets. Jane’s twin brother received the acclaim his more talented sister deserved. She was also denied credit for writing her husband’s popular operas and was often mistreated by him. And a hurried autopsy shows that she had been raped in the days before her death. Hero and Devlin use all their connections high and low to turn up clues as they crisscross the frozen city.
Harris does a fine job of exploring the striking inequality and political intrigue of the Regency period in a mystery packed with historical detail and myriad motives.