London 1940, and Pyke, hero (of sorts) of this series is in debtors jail, having squandered his fortune. His erstwhile friend Fitzroy Tilling – now a senior figure in the New Police, makes Pyke an offer – he will let him get out of prison early, if Pyke will investigate the murder of a mixed-race woman whose mutilated body has been found in one of the rougher areas of London. A wealthy aristocrat has also been murdered and all of the Police Force’s energies are being used to solve that matter, hence the reason that Tilling has called Pyke in.
Pyke accepts the job, but quickly realises that there is far more to the case than it initially appears. His investigation takes him from smog-filled London, to the beautiful plains of Jamaica, as he uses all of his cunning, intelligence, and often violence and threats, to unravel the story.
Meanwhile, Pyke’s son Felix is now 10 years old, but these days he seems to be resentful and rebellious towards his father, and Pyke desperately wants to repair their relationship. A murder investigation can only hamper his efforts due to the amount of his time he invests, but he is determined to solve the mystery.
This is the third book in the Pyke series. It isn’t necessary to have read the preceding two books, although it helps as Pyke’s character is developed throughout the stories. Here, he is in a more contemplative mood as he gets older and considers the results that his actions may have on his son. However, he has lost none of his tendency to violence and intimidation – but he does seem to have a more sharpened sense of right and wrong, and seems to judge himself more harshly.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, but the second one was something of a disappointment (though still a good read) with it’s over-complicated story. This book is a return to form. While there are plenty of twists, turns, red herrings and dead ends, the story is a lot tighter than the events of ‘The Revenge of Captain Paine’ (book 2),and I found it a to be a great story.
As always, London’s atmosphere is brought to life, and I also enjoyed the description of the Jamaica plains. The part of the story set in Jamaica was probably my favourite part – Pyke encounters hostility from the recently emancipated former black slaves, and finds himself questioning his own beliefs. Andrew Pepper always seems able to provide plenty of description while never letting go of the story itself. The ending of the story came as a real shock, and I certainly could not have predicted what would happen.
As well from Pyke himself, there are the usual dangerous underworld criminals, and Pyke’s family and friends. He is the only really developed character, but the character of Felix is starting to grow nicely and I hope that he will feature in the ensuing books in the series.
Not one for the faint hearted, this is a fast moving and sometimes gruesome story which delves into the world of prostitution and illegal pornography. There is a great murder mystery as the main thread of the book, and I would certainly recommend this book to fans of crime thrillers.