A Bow Street Runner helps solve a murder at a manor in this Regency tale.
John Chase’s 20-year career in the Royal Navy ended at the Battle of the Nile when he took a bullet to the knee. Now that he works for Bow Street, he’s hired for the personal protection of sugar planter Hugo Garrod. After making a fortune in Jamaica, Garrod brought his mixed-race daughter, Marina, to a lavish estate in Clapham with the idea of marrying her to his possible heir, his wastrel nephew Ned Honeycutt. Instead he gave Marina a London debut that disappointingly ended without a proposal, and now Honeycutt may be a marital candidate after all. Someone’s trying to frighten Marina with chicken bones and grave dirt, tokens she knew about from her mother, one of Garrod’s former slaves and a practitioner of a native religion. But Marina’s mother, with whom Chase has his own connection, is far away. When he comes to Garrod’s manor, he sees that Marina is very vulnerable, given to sleepwalking, frequently dosed with laudanum, and surrounded by her father’s unwelcoming family. Chase, who feels like an outsider himself, is glad to have his friends as fellow houseguests: melancholic barrister Edward Buckle, resourceful pamphleteer Mrs. Penelope Wolf, and her illegitimate half brother, who’s instantly smitten with Marina. At a lavish reception, the host serves tea that makes him, Honeycutt’s sister, and the estate’s vicar violently ill. Garrod begs Buckler to rewrite his will but dies before the barrister can help, leaving Chase, Buckler, and Penelope with a temporarily missing key, an unlabeled bottle, and West Indian seed-pod beads as the only evidence of who stood to benefit the most from Garrod’s death.
This fourth outing for Chase (Die I Will Not, 2014, etc.) blends thwarted love, class and racial issues, partly convincing historical details, and solid sleuthing.