A Victorian detective with a unique style and the ward who doubles as his assistant track down a serial rapist.
Sidney Grice—“the finest personal detective in the empire,” as he announces himself—is a man of impossibly high standards, extraordinarily keen senses, finicky personal habits, a relentless devotion to the truth that outweighs all tact, a tendency to lose his glass eyeball at inopportune times, and little regard for women apart from Connie Middleton, the mother of his ward, March Middleton. March herself is ever the butt of Sidney’s scorn, and he also wastes little patience on his latest client, Lucy Bocking, who was assaulted, beaten, and slashed. Sidney is scarcely more sympathetic to Lucy’s friend Freda Wilde, hideously disfigured by fire and left without relatives when Steep House, her family home, burned down. Lucy’s house next door escaped the fire, and she took in Freda as a companion—and a rather resentful one at times, because her wounds, unlike Lucy’s, will never heal. The chief suspect in the assault, the German Kaiser’s second cousin Prince Ulrich Schlangezahn, was implicated in an earlier rape. March tries in vain to entrap him in the same opium den where Lucy and Freda were attacked. A second attempt with some of her friends goes terribly wrong, and a related case of a missing person ends in a shocking mutilation. The only bright spot in March’s life is Inspector George Pound, who finally proposes to her. Although she gladly accepts, she can’t seem to find the chance to tell her guardian, for they’re both too intent on capturing the man who has stalked numerous women in London and marked their foreheads with a sinister symbol. The outcome will leave more than a few readers feeling repulsed and betrayed.
In their fifth adventure, Kasasian’s mismatched detective team (The Secrets of Gaslights Lane, 2017, etc.) is in fine form for fans who like convoluted plots, lovingly detailed gore, and mean-spirited humor. The squeamish should approach with caution or not at all.