4 / 5 Stars
Intricate, well-researched story about the slave trade, corruption and murder.
I do enjoy a good 'who-dunnit' style book, and the unusual backdrop of the UK's slave-trade definitely appealed. It's good to write about the atrocities committed, rather than seek to brush them under the carpet of history...
For the most part, I was engrossed; though the ending caused me some issues. More on that later.
Captain Harry Corsham is a man on the rise, until he learns that his old childhood chum, Tad, has been murdered in Deptford. Upon inspection of the body, it becomes obvious that this was no ordinary killing. Tad's body bears the mark of a slave-owner and shows signs of torture.
Harry suspects that Tad's abolitionist activities may have angered the wrong people, and he's hellbent on discovering who murdered his friend...even when his own life is as stake.
So, let's start with the things I enjoyed. The author's depiction of Deptford is rich, involved and 100% convincing. I could literally smell the foul, corrupt streets and envisage the buildings there. It's evident that the author really has done her research and it paid off big-time. This also lends itself to the overall 'feel' of the book - which was claustrophobic, unsettling and unpredictable.
The characters were likewise intriguing, with some standing out more than others. Beguiling Cinnamon, who was aboard the doomed ship The Dark Angel, is notable, as is Caesar John. They all came together to form a cast of ne'er-do-wells and shady types that again, added to that super creepy, tense ambiance.
(Please note - spoiler about to come - stop reading if you don't want to know what happens!)
As mentioned before, the one element I wasn't keen on was the end. To be honest, making a black man the murderer I felt was a little insensitive? And as for throttling him with a chain? I mean, that's not the most tactful symbolism, in the grand scheme of things. What I wanted to see was full-scale condemnation of the REAL criminals here, which are 100% white people. By all means, show that slavery can drive a man mad, but I feel, when writing about a subject like this, there is a responsibility to ensure there is no doubt about who the villains were. But this is just my opinion - and I do not want to make the author feel bad, because by writing about this subject, she must know she's leaving herself open to scrutiny...which is a brave thing to do (and should be done more often).
But this aside, I was really impressed. Some beautiful writing, a good old twisty-turny plot-line and a lot of impressive research. Definitely well worth reading.