CURSE OF THE HOUSE OF FOSKETT
Pegasus Crime (2015)
Kindle edition: $1.99
The Gower Street Detective (Book 2)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Sidney Grice, world-renown personal detective, is still smarting from his last, disastrous, case (THE MANGLE STREET MURDERS) Sure, his client was executed for a crime he did not commit, but he was guilty of another murder, so that seemed okay. Potential clients see it differently, so cases are thin on the ground. He spends his time languishing in his bath, eating only burnt toast and weak tea, locking himself into his room for days on end. His ward, March Middleton, eats the meager vegetarian fare served up by a mediocre cook by herself, smoking forbidden cigarettes in the garden, and writing in her journal. Much of her time is spent pondering her earlier past, and reading the letters she wrote to the man she loved and lost.
When Grice finally comes down for a meal, he tells her he must have a big case soon, or he will be lost. She advises him to get away for a while, maybe visit friends. His response: “A friend?” He recoiled in disgust. “I have no friend and what on earth would I want one for?” March is glad to see some of his old spirit return.
Shortly after this exchange, a gentleman named Horatio Mr. Green shows up unannounced to offer him a case. Grice treats him in the usual manner: insults and cruel comments, before allowing him to state his purpose. Green and six other people of means have formed a “final death society,” in which each puts up a sizable sum to be held in trust. The last person alive gets the entire amount. Grice points out the fallacy: some of the members might be inclined to hasten the deaths of some of the others. Green insists that the members are of the highest quality, and wouldn’t think of such a thing. Just in case, though, they want to employ Grice to investigate any deaths in the group, even if they seem to be from natural causes. Since Green offers the detective a sizable slice of the pie, and since nothing else is on the horizon, Grice accepts the offer.
The Last Death Club has only been active for a week, but there has already been one fatality. Before the meeting with Green is concluded, there is a second. Realizing there is no time to lose; Grice and March begin their investigation post-haste.
The detecting duo visit the remaining members of the group and the scenes of the crimes already committed. The members are an odd bunch indeed: among them is a taxidermist who swears all the big game specimens in his home are zoo animals that died of old age; except for the ones that died of young age. The colorfully-named Prometheus Perseus Piggety is a furrier. The source of the white fur that goes into his coats is both unusual and sickening. There’s a vicar, a sausage heiress, a dodgy vicar, and Lady Foskett, an elderly widow who lives in the cursed family mansion. Her late husband had been a good friend of Grice’s father, and their son was his childhood playmate.
The bodies pile up as Grice and March search for the Death Club killer. They travel from the depths of London to the heights, with many stops in between. March, who seldom gets a break, finally gets one. Her policeman friend gives her advice on the case, while their friendship grows into something else. To everyone’s surprise, Grice becomes smitten with a female doctor who’d performed an autopsy on one of the victims. Alas, the course of true love never runs smooth.
The second book in the Gower St. Detective series is just a bit better than the first, THE MANGLE STREET MURDERS, and that book was hard to top. Grice and Middleton give Holmes and Watson a run for their money. The mystery is skillfully plotted, with plenty of red herrings and unexpected, but brilliant twists and turns. The smoky, smelly streets of London come to life. The characters, both major and minor, are fully fleshed, each unique and interesting. I highly recommend this book and this series.
Would you like to read a review of THE MANGLE STREET MURDERS, the first book in this series? Please click here.
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