A village constable is nothing less than a bloodhound on the trail of murder.
Serving as constable of Redditch Town may be a position considerably below his station in life, but it’s one that Tom Potts enjoys, at least until George Maffey, a soldier invalided out after Waterloo, reports finding the badly damaged body of a woman in men’s clothes. After Potts’ wife, Amy, miscarries, she leaves him and goes back to her old job as a barmaid. Even though she still loves Potts, Amy’s convinced that no child she might conceive with him would survive. Potts hires Maffey to help with the case of the dead woman, who, despite all his efforts, remains unidentified. Barmy Methuselah Leeson’s claim that he’s seen the murderer and it’s the Devil’s Monk is widely accepted by the superstitious populace, particularly after he too is murdered. Then Potts discovers that Jared Styler, a brutal man known for beating women, has sent his lover, Carrie Perks, to pawn Methuselah’s snuffbox and becomes convinced that he’s found the killer. His conviction only grows firmer when Carrie is badly beaten and disappears. While Potts struggles to find evidence against Styler, who strongly denies his guilt, Amy, seeking adventure, apprentices herself as a high wire artist to charismatic balloonist Vincent Sorenty.
Although Fraser (The Drowned Ones, 2010, etc.) continues to provide social commentary and vivid descriptions of the harsh realities of the early 1800s, the mystery this time is weak.