It is 1844, and Pyke is now heading up the Detective Branch of the new Metropolitan Police Force. When a robbery at a pawnbrokers leaves three men dead, Pyke soon recognises one of the victims as having links with Pyke’s own criminal past, and has to try and solve the crime before secrets from his own past are revealed.
However, this is only the first problem that Pyke will encounter during the investigation. When the rector of a wealthy parish is murdered some months later, and a valuable antique cross is stolen, Pyke sees a connection and sets out to solve the mystery. He soon discovers that somebody – possibly one of the men he works for – wants to keep the matter hushed up and is prepared to sacrifice Pyke’s career, or worse, to do so. It isn’t long before he realises that he doesn’t know who he can trust – or indeed if he can trust anybody.
Meanwhile, Pyke has to deal with loss in his personal life, and a growing detachment from his 14 year old son Felix…
This is the fourth novel in the Pyke series. All of the books have been enjoyable and this one, like those preceding it, is very readable. The author captures the atmosphere of Victorian London, and clearly knows his subject well. One aspect of the series that has been fascinating is how it describes the development of a police force in London from the beginning.
Pyke is somewhat more restrained in this book – necessarily so due to his job as a police inspector. Whereas in the previous novels he was a Bow Street Runner and then an independent (of sorts) investigator, he now has a duty to uphold the law and therefore is not always able to turn to his former methods of obtaining information. He is also becoming more considered as he gets older and is starting to realise that how he lives his life directly affects how his son Felix sees the world.
The mystery itself is satisfying, if sometimes a little over-complicated and it was occasionally necessary to remind myself who was who, and occasionally what a particular character’s role in the story was. The ending however was excellent – probably the best ending of any of the novels so far in the series, with a twist that I certainly couldn’t have predicted.
For the most part, the characters are well drawn, and the development of Felix’s character suggests that he might play an even bigger role in future novels. I liked the dynamic between Pyke and Felix – they love each other dearly, but don’t really understand each other. Some of the other characters in the book were interesting to read about – I hope that the priest Martin Jakes might feature in any future Pyke novels – especially the other officers in the detective branch.
Overall, I wouldn’t say that this is the best Pyke book, but it’s certainly a worthwhile and enjoyable addition to the series. Recommended to fans of crime and/or historical fiction.