A mystery set in the latter part of Victorian times à la Sherlock Holmes with Dicksonian overtones.
Colin Pendragon is a talented detective channeling the shade of Sherlock Holmes' arrogance and abilities. His companion Ethan Pruitt plays Watson to Pendragon's Sherlock persona.
It took me some time to realized that their relationship was discretely different to that of Holmes and Watson. And then there's the strange landlady, Mrs Behmoth who is both alarming and endearing. Certainly a far cry from Mrs Hudson. (A strange household indeed. In fact, I was quite enamoured of this quirky little group. Future novels I hope will divulge the story of how they came together. There are hints along the way.)
Disgruntled by Scotland Yards enquiries, Lady Anifour comes demanding that Pendragon take her on as a client. Her husband has been murdered, her niece beaten and left in a coma. She demands that Pendragon find the culprit.
The Anifour household is a hot bed of dissatisfaction, a dissolute son, an up-tight, pinched lip housekeeper, a distant daughter, a gardener whose more than a gardener and the gardener's son. (one can sense D.H.Lawrence looming in the background)
Then we have the appearance of an interesting young ragamuffin from the bowels of the London stews asking for help to find his younger disappeared sister.
That search takes Pendragon and Ethan deep into the underbelly of criminal activity, the opium dens and brothels, and for Ethan, into a tragic past he has fought to conquer.
These visit's are poignantly dark moments for him. The reader has hints of Ethan's former life without Pendragon. We witness his very personal struggle against the seduction of opium and the hints of what his old life might have entailed. His coming realization of the thin line between succumbing or not to the lure of the poppy is heartfelt. These scenes elicit our sympathy and understanding as he fights the temptation.
The murder trail, like that of Hansel and Gretel's, is littered with breadcrumbs. It leads to places unexpected and I for one was left wondering right until the end.
I'm looking forward to the next adventure in the series!
A NetGalley ARC