Investigative team Blake and Avery find themselves entangled in a case involving political conflicts, personal vendettas, and England’s first celebrity chef.
London, 1842. Captain William Avery is persuaded to investigate a mysterious and horrible death at the Reform, London’s newest and grandest gentleman’s club—a death the club is desperate to hush up. What he soon discovers is a web of rivalries and hatreds, both personal and political, simmering behind the club’s handsome façade. At the center is its resident genius, Alexis Soyer, “the Napoleon of food,” a chef whose culinary brilliance is matched only by his talent for self-publicity.
But Avery is distracted, for where is his mentor and partner in crime Jeremiah Blake? And what if this first death is only a dress rehearsal for something far more sinister?
mystery with possible political ramifications drives Carter's superlative third Victorian historical featuring Jeremiah Blake and Capt. William Avery (after 2016's The Infidel Stain). In 1842, Blake has been working regularly as a private inquiry agent for Theophilus Collinson, a man "quietly influential in London's highest political and social circles," but Blake chafes at being considered a hired hand and refuses a new assignment. Claiming that Blake was already paid for work unperformed, Collinson has the stubborn detective arrested and imprisoned for debt. With his sleuthing friend in the Marshalsea prison, Avery ends up having to take the lead when an MP, Charles Rowlands, is poisoned at a fancy dinner party at the Reform Club. Since the club is soon to be the site of a banquet for an Egyptian minister at a time when the Russians are trying to draw Egypt into an alliance against Turkey and ignite a Mideast war, identifying Rowlands's killer is a national priority. Carter again has crafted an ingenious, fast-moving plot with emotional depth and plausible surprises.