As the Industrial Revolution roils London, “a daring pair of Regency sleuths tackle a series of coldblooded murders” in this historical mystery (Kirkus Reviews).
When the eminent scientist Lord Wrexford discovers the body of a gifted inventor in a dark London alley, he promptly alerts the authorities. But Wrexford soon finds himself drawn into the murder investigation when the inventor’s widow tells him that the crime was no random robbery. Her husband’s designs for a new steam-powered engine went missing the night of his death. The plans could be worth a fortune . . .and very dangerous in the wrong hands.
Joining Wrexford in his investigation is Charlotte Sloane, who publishes scathing political cartoons under the pseudonym A. J. Quill. Her extensive network of informants is critical for her work—and for tracking down the occasional killer. The suspects include ambitious assistants, greedy investors, and even the inventor’s widow. And when another victim falls, Wrexford and Sloane know they are on the trail of a cunning and deadly foe.
“Penrose deftly combines a Regency romance with a tricky mystery that delves into social unrest and the darker side of this storied period.” —Kirkus Reviews
Early in Penrose's able second Regency mystery (after 2017's Murder on Black Swan Lane), the Earl of Wrexford, a respected amateur chemist, is returning home from a night of gambling when he stumbles over a mutilated corpse in London's disreputable St. Giles district. He's shocked to learn that the victim is an acquaintance, Elihu Ashton, a textile factory owner who shares his scientific bent. Elihu's widow, Isobel, who reveals that Elihu recently designed a new type of steam engine with huge profit potential, asks Wrexford's help in discovering the killer. Z-shaped slashes on the body point to a radical anti-industrial group called the Workers of Zion, but additional clues persuade Wrexford and his detecting partner, artist Charlotte Sloane, that the crime is more complex. Elihu's assistant and the drawings of his invention go missing, a coded message turns up, and everyone from Isobel to Elihu's investors is hiding secrets. Penrose reveals intriguing new aspects of her protagonists' characters and relationship in a story linked to the era's technological and social changes.