On the eve of the Victorian era, London has a new sleuth . . .
In the winter of 1835, young Charles Dickens is a journalist on the rise at the Evening Chronicle. Invited to dinner at the estate of the newspaper's co-editor, Charles is smitten with his boss's daughter, vivacious nineteen-year-old Kate Hogarth. They are having the best of times when a scream shatters the pleasant evening. Charles, Kate, and her father rush to the neighbors' home, where Miss Christiana Lugoson lies unconscious on the floor. By morning, the poor young woman will be dead.
When Charles hears from a colleague of a very similar mysterious death a year ago to the date, also a young woman, he begins to suspect poisoning and feels compelled to investigate. The lovely Kate offers to help—using her social position to gain access to the members of the upper crust, now suspects in a murder. If Charles can find justice for the victims, it will be a far, far better thing than he has ever done. But with a twist or two in this most peculiar case, he and Kate may be in for the worst of times . . .
Set in 1835, this languid series launch from Redmond (the Redcakes series) turns Charles Dickens, then a journalist for the Evening Chronicle, into a detective with mixed results. A dinner at the home of his editor, George Hogarth, is interrupted by a scream from a neighboring house, where Dickens and George's fetching daughter, Kate, find that 17-year-old Christiana Lugoson has suffered a collapse that will soon prove fatal. When the reporter learns that 17-year-old Marie Rueff died under similar circumstances exactly a year earlier, he suspects foul play and investigates the possibility that both were poisoned. His unimpressive probing, aided by Kate, yields multiple suspects with motives including hatred and greed. Redmond's opening line (" Epiphany is truly the best of times,' Charles Dickens exclaimed") sets the tone, and she makes sporadic efforts to evoke Dickens's style throughout. Readers interested in fictional depictions of Dickens that insert him into a mystery plot will be better served by such books by Dan Simmons and William Palmer.