Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Price of Murder

Bruce Alexander participated in a panel on historical mysteries at Bouchercon in 2003.  The Price of Murder, the tenth book in the Sir John Fielding series, had just been published, so I found a new author with a decent sized backlist.  What I didn't know was that the series would end with the eleventh book, because Mr. Alexander died in 2004.  I think that's why it's been over two years since I last read a Sir John Fielding mystery - I know the series is about to end and I want to stretch it out a little longer.  Or maybe I was just a bit disappointed in book #9.

The Price of Murder, like several other books I've read this year, is a dual mystery.  The first is the murder of a small child whose body is found floating in the Thames.  She's the daughter of a prostitute who sold her, knowingly or not, to a pedophile, and then disappeared.  While looking for evidence in the missing woman's room, Sir John's assistant Jeremy Proctor meets the woman's brother, a well-known jockey named Deuteronomy Plummer.  He's an interesting character, and I enjoyed Alexander's detour into 18th Century horse racing.   He relies a bit too much on coincidence (the child's murderer breeds horses), but the excitement of the racing scenes make up for the predictability.  

I was disappointed, however, in the subplot.  Jeremy's fiancee Clarissa Roundtree meets an old friend who's now living in London and helping her mother run a boardinghouse.  Her brief disappearance and the trial of her alleged kidnappers is entertaining, but serves only to move up the couple's wedding date.  Alexander should have either integrated this story line more closely with the main plot or left it out.

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