Monday, October 24, 2011
Cavalry captain Gabriel Lacey returns to Regency London from the Napoleonic wars, burned out, fighting melancholia, his career ended. His interest is perked when he learns of a missing girl, possibly kidnapped by a prominent member of Parliament. Lacey's search for the girl leads to the discovery of murder, corruption, and dealings with a leader of the underworld. He faces his own disorientation transitioning from a soldier's life to the civilian world at the same time, redefining his role with his former commanding officer and making new friends-from the top of society to the street girls of Covent Garden.
As a big Jennifer Ashley fan, when I heard she was writing Regency historical mysteries under the name of Ashley Gardner I had to give her a try. The Hanover Square Affair was being offered for next to nothing on kindle, so this was a no brainer for me. Uploaded and put on my TBR list - 'nuff said.
This was a short but engrossing mystery, Capt. Lacey is a gentleman and half-pay officer in London. He has his problems though, he's short on money, has a bad leg and is prone to melancholy (post traumatic syndrome, most likely.) One evening, he learns of a tragic story of two respectable women that are abducted to be sold as playthings for rich gentlemen with "peculiar" sexual preferences. Written in the first person, we are privy to Lacey's inner thoughts. He cannot ignore the fact that a respectable young lady and her servant were snatched from their carriage in broad daylight to never be seen again! He takes it upon himself to help the parents who are near crazed with worry. His inquiries lead to murder and many other sordid revelations that take place in the seamy side of London. The side that most aristocrats and debutantes prefer not to know - or think about.
Lacey's investigations lead him to a powerful man, one who's name is whispered about in hushed circles. A man who can get anything for anyone - for a price. Lacey is not afraid of him, although he should be. He visits the man under the ruse of being a friend of a friend and comes close to getting himself in deep sh*t after he accuses the man of procuring the two innocent young women for the lecherous older man that kept them as his love slaves. The plot thickens...
Lacey develops a friendship with a popular man about town, Lucius Grenville, who is known for being somewhat of a dandy and prone to boredom. Together they team up to uncover the truth about the two missing women and maybe some other women that have disappeared mysteriously as well. Luckily Lucius is generous with his pocketbook and and recognizes that Lacey is not exactly living in the lap of luxury. They make a good team, especially since poor Lacey seems to blunder around, often running into trouble. Lacey's soft heart and noble sense of honor don't mix well with the unsavory types he runs up against in this mystery. Lucius comes to his rescue more than once and at one point, I admit, I wondered if Lucius was friend or foe.
I recommend this mystery series, but I noticed a few too many editorial typos that should have been taken care of before publishing. Hopefully this problem will be dealt with in the future. The plot line was intriguing enough but I felt a bit squeamish over some of the things that took place over the course of Lacey's investigation - regarding the murder, in particular. This isn't for the faint of heart, I was tempted to put the book down at one point but I forged on. It's probably just me, I think any historical mystery lover will enjoy this new series. The writing itself is well done and evocative of the Regency period. His friends and periphery characters are well drawn, adding depth to Lacey's background as well as giving us the reason why he left the Army so unceremoniously.
If you enjoy books similar to the Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries by C.S. Harris and the Julian Kestrel mysteries by Kate Ross you will probably want to read these mysteries as well. I can't say The Hanover Square Affair is as good, but the series shows promise.