I’ve never read any of the Crowther and Westerman series of historical crime dramas, which is astonishing considering they are mysteries set in the late 16th century featuring a female sleuth and her fledgling pathologist partner, which sounds like it was actually written with me in mind. This shows that either I am massively unaware of what is being published or someone’s advertising isn’t working.
I got this book through BookBridgr, and am so very glad I did as I am now going to buy the whole series as my summer treat and devour it all whilst eating frozen custard lollies and steadfastly ignoring my dissertation*.
This is the fifth book in the series, and has therefore probably spoilered the rest for me, but the quality of the writing, sprinkled with humour and clearly lovingly researched, has made me not really mind that. This book was just a joy, well-paced, well-plotted, with just enough obvious clues to make the reader feel smug. Sometimes it is nice to know exactly what is going to happen and then watch it all unfold in front of you and that is what this book gave me. It also made me want to know more about the slave trade and it’s part in the makings of British history (did you know the bloke who wrote Amazing Grace worked on a slave ship?!). The authors note is right, this is something we don’t talk about enough. White British people should be looking at our architecture and wealth and acknowledge it was built on the backs of the exploitation and abuse and murder of million and millions of people and we should feel shame about that.
Harriet Westerman is also a delight, a wealthy widow who uses her brain and her wit to get to the bottom of things, she is also a thinking feeling woman and very well-rounded a heroine. Crowther, her partner in detection, is a character I think one has to get to know, hence my immediate longing for the rest of the books. This story surrounds the finding of the body of a former plantation owner, and the suspicion that is placed on the black community. Running alongside this murder investigation is the story of Francis Glass, who was captured as a child and sold into slavery, who is now working as a bookseller. The history of bookselling and printing is also clearly well researched, and told with great passion for the subject.
There are bits of this book which are veeeeery cheesy, and a bit daft, and parts reminded me a little of Ripper Street. But if you like History Crime, especially along the Gods of Gotham line, you’ll love this.
*obviously, I am not ignoring my dissertation. It has completely taken over my brain and I am incredibly stressed with it. Distance learning is a lonely lonely place to be, man, and I am very very grateful for the support my fellow librarians have shown me.