London, 1785. When the body of a West Indies planter is found pegged out in the grounds of St Paul’s Cathedral, suspicion falls on one of the victim’s former slaves, who was found with his watch on the London streets. But it seems the answer is not that simple. The impact of the planter’s death brings tragedy for Francis Glass, a freed slave now working as a bookseller and printer in the city, and a painful reminder of the past for William Geddings, Harriet Westerman’s senior footman.
Harriet is reluctant to be drawn in to the difficult and powerful world of the slave trade, but she and her friend, reclusive anatomist Gabriel Crowther, begin to understand the dark secrets hidden by the respectable reputation of London’s slave owners. Together, they negotiate the interests of the British government, the secrets of the plantation owners, and a network of alliances stretching across the Atlantic. And they must confront the uncomfortable truth that some people are willing to do great evil when they believe their cause to be just.
The best way I could describe this book is CSI: Georgian London. This book does a really good job at being a murder mystery while also being a fantastic historical fiction novel. It tells the story of Harriet Westerman, a wealthy young widow and Gabriel Crowther, a brilliant, reclusive anatomist, as they investigate the death of former West Indies plantation owner. Slavery plays an importation role in this book which makes it feel very dark. It touches on the subject of England’s extensive slave trade and plantation owners in Jamaica. It also focuses on the free slaves who started to build lives for themselves in the UK.
This book has a fantastically large number of interesting characters. However I am admittedly not that great with names and this resulted in me being confused because there were so many characters. While I enjoyed this book I couldn’t help but feel that I would have understood who and what was going on much better if I had read the other books in the series first.
*I received a copy of this book from Headline Review in exchange for an honest review.