Dan Foster is a senior Bow Street Runner, one of the first policemen in London. This is the third book in the series of Mysteries, but it can certainly be appreciated as a standalone book, which is how I read it. Prince George is an actual character in this book, as is Foster’s family. Set in Georgian times, in this book London is a place of shadowy corners, rich and poor, thieves, cutthroats and others trying to scratch a living. It is in this part of the city that the first body is found, unnamed and apparently unmourned. Another body is found in the exact opposite situation; the murdered Louise Parmeter, an old favourite of the Prince and now a beautiful woman of independence and many talents. For better or worse, Dan becomes involved in both investigations, the second at the instigation of John Townshend, royal bodyguard, for initially mysterious reasons. As the situations Dan finds himself becoming more embroiled in get more complex, he must decide where his priorities lie. I found this a fascinating and interesting portrayal of a man endeavouring to do his best, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
The range of characters that Dan encounters in his work is huge, and reflect the immense research that has evidently gone into this book. He encounters the poorest people who have few options, despite their youth. Women who must make their living on the streets, children who must steal to survive, men who fight for the survival of themselves and others. There are those who have more advantages, but who choose dissolute lives. Louise Parmeter obviously has her secrets as she can choose who she supports and the way she spends her notable wealth, and her beauty and talents have attracted many men. The violence of her death appals her loyal staff, and raises many possibilities in Dan’s mind, but it seems that he has been called in to assist with the case for other reasons. As elements of Dan’s background story emerge they serve to explain some of his skills and motivations. His son Alex is much loved but also a reason for contention with his wife Caroline, and his family relationships are evidently complex. His own background has equipped him with many skills and an awareness of how the underworld of London works, but even then his survival is not straightforward.
This is such a well researched book that the setting of both the richest and poorest in society is made vibrant and alive. The language used is both revealing of the time and completely within character whether spoken by a rich lord or a poor man scraping a living by dubious means. There is at the heart of the novel a sufficiently complex crime or two to engage the most sophisticated detection fans. I found the character of Dan really attractive, as he thinks through his motivations and reactions.He is skilled and able, but knows that he makes mistakes and is also not always the most popular with his superiors. As a fan of historical crime novels I would say that this is certainly a very good example of a skillfully constructed and well researched book. Dan is a very engaging character and I would be very interested to read the other books in which he features. I recommend this book as a thoroughly engaging historical novel with many elements to enjoy.