cover image The Infidel Stain

The Infidel Stain

M.J. Carter. Putnam, $26.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-399-17168-0

Set around 1840, Carter’s outstanding second whodunit reunites Jeremiah Blake and William Avery, who tackled a baffling mystery a few years earlier in India in 2015’s The Strangler Vine. Avery, a former army captain who has returned home to England with his pregnant wife, responds to a summons from Blake, a private inquiry agent in London. Viscount Allington, a philanthropist and member of the new Tory government, wants the pair to look into two grisly murders that the police have neglected. Printers Nat Wedderburn and Matthew Blundell were butchered in their workplaces, their corpses displayed as if part of some ritual. The politician hopes that solving the crimes will serve to bolster the lower classes’ faith in the establishment and counter the growing appeal of the Chartists, who demand that all Englishmen have the right to vote. Carter excels at incorporating the volatile politics of the time into her cleverly constructed plot, which repeatedly confounds readers’ expectations while presenting moving scenes of the plight of London’s poor reminiscent of Dickens. [em]Author tour. Agent: Bill Hamilton, A.M. Heath (U.K.). (Mar.) [/em]