The latest novel from Heather Redmond’s acclaimed mystery series finds young Charles Dickens suspecting a miser of pushing his partner out a window, but his fiancée Kate Hogarth takes a more charitable view of the old man's innocence . . .
London, December 1835: Charles and Kate are out with friends and family for a chilly night of caroling and good cheer. But their blood truly runs cold when their singing is interrupted by a body plummeting from an upper window of a house. They soon learn the dead man at their feet, his neck strangely wrapped in chains, is Jacob Harley, the business partner of the resident of the house, an unpleasant codger who owns a counting house, one Emmanuel Screws.
Ever the journalist, Charles dedicates himself to discovering who's behind the diabolical defenestration. But before he can investigate further, Harley's corpse is stolen. Following that, Charles is visited in his quarters by what appears to be Harley's ghost—or is it merely Charles’s overwrought imagination? He continues to suspect Emmanuel, the same penurious penny pincher who denied his father a loan years ago, but Kate insists the old man is too weak to heave a body out a window. Their mutual affection and admiration can accommodate a difference of opinion, but matters are complicated by the unexpected arrival of an infant orphan. Charles must find the child a home while solving a murder, to ensure that the next one in chains is the guilty party . . .
Set in December 1835, Redmond's workmanlike third Charles Dickens mystery (after 2019's Grave Expectations) takes Charles, at that time a journalist, to Hertfordshire, where he encounters a woman who claims that her late sister identified Charles as her baby's father, and insists he assume the infant's care. Charles returns with little Timothy to London, where he lodges the boy with friends. The next evening, Charles and his fianc e, Kate Hogarth, are caroling when an elderly man with iron chains around his neck falls to his death from a second-story window. The corpse is Jacob Harley, a moneylender who lived with his business partner, Emmanuel Screws. As Charles seeks to find Timothy's real father, he investigates Harley's illegitimate son, the owner of the company that made the chains, and the partners' mysterious American employee. The heavy-handed links to A Christmas Carol feel superfluous, though Redmond nicely blends period details into the storytelling. Cozy fans should enjoy this seasonal fare.