Friday, July 07, 2006

A Covent Garden Mystery - Ashley Gardner

A Covent Garden Mystery
A Mystery of Regency England
Ashley Gardner
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery - Historical - Regency England

Captain Gabriel Lacey, late of the 35th Light Dragoons, is strolling through the Covent Garden marketplace early one morning when a young lady catches his attention. She’s purchasing peaches at a stall, and the vendor, perhaps noticing her slight French accent, is attempting to double the price of the fruit. After that’s sorted, Lacey realizes that the girl looks strangely familiar. When her mother appears, both she and Lacey freeze in shock. The girl’s mother is Carlotta, Lacey’s estranged wife. With another jolt, Lacey realizes that the girl is his daughter, although she is clearly unaware of the fact.

Carlotta left Lacey for a French officer nearly fifteen years ago, when their daughter was only two. Since then, there has been no contact. Lacey knows that, according to English law in 1817, he could have Carlotta arrested and charged with adultery and kidnapping his daughter. But, while both Laceys want to see the marriage dissolved, neither wants to travel that path.

Arriving at Bow Street to ask that a Runner make sure Carlotta does not flee with the girl, Lacey learns of a strange series of crimes. Girls have been vanishing from Covent Gardens. Since they’re street girls, the news has not stirred public interest, but the Bow Street Runners are concerned. They ask Lacey to look into it. As much to occupy his mind as anything else, he agrees. When his daughter disappears, Lacey will stop at nothing to find her.

This is the latest in this exceptional series, and it does not disappoint. Longtime readers of the series will enjoy seeing old friends; newcomers will have no trouble at all jumping in at this point. The author writes, as always, with a real sense of the time and place, seamlessly weaving period details into the engrossing narrative. Lacey is a unique character. A wounded officer and son of a landed gentleman, he lives in fairly shabby rooms. He counts both members of the aristocracy and habitués of the seedier parts of London as friends. One thing that is always consistent is his sense of justice. Fans of historical mysteries won’t want to miss this one.

Rating: 8
July 2006
paperback isbn# 0-425-21086-3


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