It's 1742. Blake returns to the English town of Preston, where a
rash of crimes challenges a coroner and a physician.
Coroner Titus Cragg and his friend and confidant Dr. Luke Fidelis have solved difficult puzzles before (Dark Waters, 2013, etc.). But a series of seemingly unconnected mysteries will tax their ingenuity. First, Cragg is called to the scene of the death of goldsmith Phillip Pimbo, shot dead while sitting at his desk in a locked room. Although it looks like suicide, Fidelis has several ideas about how it could have been an accident or murder. Mayor Grimshaw is furious when no funds are found in the room. Pimbo had been given the Preston Corporation’s assets and placed them with the help of the mysterious Zadok Moon in a scheme to make more money. A client Fidelis has been treating for free, a poor man suffering from a stroke, has in his possession a silver spoon that may have been part of a treasure, missing since the days of Cromwell, which had also belonged to the corporation. As Pimbo’s lawyer, Cragg must settle his estate. Accordingly, he and Fidelis go to Liverpool after a perusal of Pimbo’s papers shows that he and Moon had invested the corporation’s money in a scheme to buy slaves in Africa, sell them in the Indies and buy goods which could be sold for a large profit in England. The ship was heavily insured, but to the mayor’s disgust, an investigator for the insurance company suspects fraud, so the corporation may still lose money. When the investigator is found conveniently beaten to death, it’s up to the two sleuthing friends to tie together the chain of strange incidents.
An engagingly detailed look at good and ill in the 1700s that’s cleverly entwined with several perplexing mysteries.