Book Review: A Death Along the River Fleet by Susanna Calkins

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The last thing Lucy Campion, a printer’s apprentice, expected to see while walking along the River Fleet was a ghost. But that’s sort of what she finds in Susanna Calkins’ latest mystery set in post-1666 Great Fire London. The ghost turns out to be a young woman covered in blood, in tattered clothes and with no memory of who she is or what happened to her. Lucy takes the girl to a physician she knows, and they try to identify her. When they decide that the mysterious woman probably has a noble upbringing, Lucy agrees to become the woman’s personal caretaker, and together they begin to rebuild her memory. A memory that puts both girls in grave danger and could possibly dismantle a horrible plot that reaches deep into British high society.

Complicating matters for Lucy is the fact that the two men her heart yearns for—Constable Duncan and the wealthy Adam Hargrave—become involved in the search for the woman’s past, and this sets up a love triangle subplot that some readers may feel gets in the way of the true mystery.

Calkins’ London oozes from the pages. From the rank, vile Fleet River, to the lingering effects of the Great Fire, into the dark, foreboding and crazed Bedlam hospital, the reader is transported to a world far away but with a closeness of familiarity. Readers may need to suspend belief that Lucy, from a lower caste, would be so openly accepted into higher society, but that does not get in the way too much of a well-paced, historical mystery. An all-around fun book to read.

Review originally appeared in the Historical Novels Review August 2016

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