Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Thames River Murders by Ashley Gardner

First Sentence: The letter, neatly folded at my plate, looked innocuous enough, but I had a sense of disquiet about it.

Someone is threatening Captain Gabriel Lacey by claiming he’s not who he says. When that threat includes an attempt to harm Lacey’s wife’s son, Lacey takes It very seriously. Yet he also has the matter of a decade-dead woman to identify, and a killer to find, and his daughter, Gabriella, who is coming out.

One can greatly appreciate the use of Ms. Gardner’s expressions appropriate to the social class of the period to describe Lacey’s wife—“Donata had been quite a diamond of the first water in her Season.” However, it is interesting to learn of the laws of the period and the control men had over their wives. While women of wealth and position could act and go out independent of their husbands, where women of lower classes could not, for them all, unless a woman inherited directly from her father, it was men who controlled the money, property and the lives of their children. Even further, in this particular book, Gardner addresses the laws with regard to Jews in England at the time.

Followers of the series will be pleased to see how the relationship between Lacey, his wife, daughter and stepson is progressing. However, new readers will not feel the lack of their history and will quickly understand just how unusual is their relationship, even for the time. However, this is by no means a book where the marital relationship overwhelms the story. Far from it.

In many ways, the most intriguing relationships are between Lacey; James Dennis a dangerous and powerful criminal; Brewster, the man charged by Denis to keep track of Lacey; and Lacey’s friend Lord Granville, a man of extreme wealth and position whose friendship with Granville helps stave off his own boredom.

Lacey is a former front-line soldier and is not without his flaws, the worst being his temper and penchant to hurl himself into potentially dangerous situations—“Captain, you could find trouble inside St. James’s Palace.” But it’s Lacey’s empathy for others, and his determination for justice that makes him a compelling and dimensional character; one who would attract such diverse range of associates.

That the victim and her family are Jewish introduces a new and interesting element. The wonderful scene of Lacey visiting a synagogue leads to a particularly poignant observation—“Any man I’d met of the Hebrew religion had been no different than I was, I’d observed—in fact, many came from circumstances far better than mine, and blended into London life more seamlessly than I did. True, I was able to vote for stand for Parliament…but how did that make me a superior man?” Shades of Shylock from “The Merchant of Venice.”

The Thames River Murders” is an excellent read, filled with twists, suspense, action, balanced by a touch of relationships and two threads which peak our curiosity of the next book.

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