Genre: historical cozy mystery.
Coronation Day, 1892. Charles and Kate Sheridan are pleased to be witness to the crowning of their King. Expatriate author Jack London is also watching the festivities – but with a more sceptical eye. He has come to London to write an exposé of the East End slums – and the coronation has not tempered his disdain for the monarchy.
This special day takes a sinister turn when an anarchist accidentally blows himself up with a bomb meant for the King. Charged with determining the extent of the danger facing the Crown, Charles and Kate turn up a number of intriguing – and disturbing – questions.
And then there is the matter of the mysterious, beautiful Charlotte Conway, editor of the anarchist newspaper where the dead man was employed. On the run from Scotland Yard, she takes refuge in Kate and Charles’ home – and in Jack London’s arms. All of which makes for a very interesting investigation indeed…
I am a little bit sad, there are only two more books in this series to enjoy. I do wish the authors, Susan and Bill Albert, would reconsider writing a few more. Yes, this is also Susan Wittig Albert, author of the cozy mystery I reviewed two days ago, but those she writes solo.
During the books, I have come to like Kate and Charles a lot. They are such great characters, open to reform, helping the poor and their servants where they can. I especially enjoy Charles’ interest in modern science, and in this book his fingerprinting hobby finally comes to fruition. The very first burglar in English history is convicted based on his fingerprint evidence. For the theft of 7 billiards balls, he is sentenced with 7 years in prison.
And that ruling turns out to be very important for this case.
When the Royal couple is on its way back to Buckingham Palace after the Coronation ceremony, an anarchist with a bomb meant for them, manages to blow himself up. He was already known as an anarchist by the Special Branch of Scotland Yard, and a few days later they arrest his coworkers at the anarchist newspaper the Clarion, where he worked. Only the editor, Charlotte Conway, manages to escape over the roof. Descending, she lands at the feet of Jack London, who takes an instant liking to her, but she swiftly runs away. Two of her colleagues are taking in custody by the police. A Frenchman and a Russian who had to feel their own countries and have taken refuge in London’s East End, like so many others. Both true anarchists. But also Adam Gould, who was just there to take Charlotte to lunch, and is also taken away. He is a socialist, working for one of the biggest railway Guilds, negotiating between the workers and their employees.
To his own dismay, Charles is asked by the Crown to look into things, and find out the truth behind this threat. He and Kate were not planning to go back to London just yet. But it is allright to wait until after the weekend. Which is a good thing, as Kate’s friend the actress (and their former maid) Nellie Lovelace with a friend, who turns out to be Charlotte Conway. She needs a place to stay for a while, until it is safe to go back to London. Charlotte is a true anarchist, trying not to care about other people, but she is truly impressed with Lady Kate Sheridan. Kate has founded a school for women to learn to be independent farmers and such, now the man are fleeing to the factories in the cities to find a job. And the profits of their labour are shared among them, and not end up in Kate’s pockets. But when Charlotte is expected to get involved in the school as well, and has to feed the pigs the next day, she flees back to London. There is something she can do for her imprisoned friends! But it is Charles who will make the difference, by taking care that a good solicitor/barrister will aid them in court. Still, acquitting them will not be easy with the evidence against them. Even though they are sure that the police planted it themselves! Which is true, as Inspector Ashford of the Special Branch of Scotland Yard is very keen to make a name for himself, and is of the opinion that any and all means are allowed to get the results he wants: anarchists of the street and behind bars.
Not really much of a mystery to figure out in this book though. Almost all the details are known up front, but I did like the trial. And it was nice revisiting these characters and England in this time period. Anarchy was a very real threat in those days. Nowadays, it is called terrorism. The Ochrana, the Russian secret service is involved, which makes for some intriguing details.
Who has not heard of the author Jack London, or read one of his books. I have fond memories of White Fang. But in this book he is not portrayed in a good way. He is kind of a scumbag. I often do wonder how true those characterizations are of the famous people appearing in this series.
As always, Robin Paige has written a true cozy mystery, with some famous guest characters thrown in the mix. I really like the writing style, and how everything fits together. But I admit I like the bits starring Kate the best. This is another series I can recommend to all history lovers.
© 2012 Reviews by Aurian