Could the body in the river be that of the missing tea heiress? And why are so many of the interested parties lying?
For Constable George Crossland of the River Police, the peace of an early morning in 1873 London is destroyed by the discovery of a body floating down the Thames. Meanwhile, enquiry agents Matthew Grand and James Batchelor (The Island, 2017, etc.) interview a highly overwrought potential client named Wellington-Smith, who soon confesses to actually being Selwyn Byng, a man whose wife, Emilia, has disappeared. Heiress to the Westmoreland tea fortune, Emilia has been in mourning for nearly a year since the accidental death of her father, Josiah; she's been avoiding conjugal relations with her husband and staying in recent months with her aunt Jane. While Grand and Batchelor question the mercurial Jane, who bristles at the suggestion that Emilia may have run off with a lover, Crossland reports the corpse “moving downriver.” By the time it’s finally recovered, it’s in pieces. Could this be Emilia? Or young prostitute Bet, whom the reader follows in the opening chapter? Trow’s whodunit introduces multiple characters from their own perspectives: street urchin Jack Sandal, police surgeon Felix Kempster, a suspicious itinerant from the West Country who calls himself William Bisgrove, and oddly named police inspector "Daddy" Bliss. Much of the investigation focuses on the thuggish Mr. Knowes, who’s reportedly in the import/export business. He at first foils efforts to locate him, then evades questions from Batchelor and plots a strategy to undermine the detective duo.
The fifth Victorian whodunit from the prolific author of the Kit Marlowe and Lestrade mysteries offers Dickensian portraits of period archetypes and a shrewdly layered puzzle.