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THE GLASS HOUSE
By Ashley Gardner
Berkley, December, 2004 ($5.99)
Reviewed by Dawn Crawford
To state the positive about this book is to begin with an adventure of murder and intrigue. Captain Lacey finds a dead woman in the Thames. After discovering the identity of the woman he learns she has a sordid past that is connected to an unusual residence. The Glass House is a house of ill repute that admits only the idle rich. As Lacey learns more about this house he finds it has ties to some unscrupulous characters, a few of whom he has dealt with before. With the help of his rich friend Mr. Grenville he obtains access to the Glass House and this is where the true adventure begins.
I must admit the story is intriguing, but I personally have a problem with the main character, Captain Lacey. The more I learn about him, the more unbelievable he becomes. For the first time three quarters of the way through this book the author reveals that Captain Lacey may now perhaps have a means of supporting himself. Before this Lacey was supposedly on half pay, semi-retired from the army. I do not see this as plausible, as most army officers of the period would have bought their commissions and once having left would not receive a pay packet.
This is the third book in the series. We have reviews of the two previous books. Please click on the title(s) to read those reviews now. THE HANOVER SQUARE AFFAIR. A REGIMENTAL MURDER. The fourth book in the series, THE SUDBURY SCHOOL MURDERS is scheduled for release June 7, 2005.
The Regency is a completely different era from the Victorian, and readers are often confused. The Napoleonic Wars saw some odd things that never happened again (all the commission regulations and so forth came after it, from problems that happened during that time).
Captain Lacey did not purchase his commission. He volunteered, waiting for a commission to come open. When he did, the influence of his commander helped him into the position. He never purchased the commission; therefore,†it was not his to sell.
His situation was common. During the Napoleonic wars, a large percentage of officers got their commissions in this way. An officer who took half-pay was not completely out of the army--if they needed officers, they could call him back, although this happened infrequently. Half-pay officers received a pay packet every quarter (half of their usual pay, which wasn't very much to begin with). Many officers were independently wealthy; Captain Lacey was not.
Also, Captain Lacey is a gentleman, meaning he is a landed gentleman's son whose family's income came from the land and tenant farmers. Therefore, even if Lacey was poor, he would have been invited to social functions and respected in society, as long as he could find something to wear. During this time, social standing was NOT based on money; it was based on who your family was, and Lacey's family was quite blue-blooded.
I researched social mores and army pay/commissions before writing this series. Captain Lacey is certainly plausible and even typical.
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