cover image Kill-Devil and Water

Kill-Devil and Water

Andrew Pepper, . . Phoenix, $15.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-7538-2597-6

Set in 1840, Pepper’s outstanding third hard-boiled historical finds the series’ unusual antihero, known simply as Pyke, still recovering from the loss of his wife, who perished five years earlier, in 2008’s The Revenge of Captain Paine . Self-destructive acts have landed the former Bow Street Runner in debtors’ prison, leaving him even more of a stranger to his 10-year-old son, Felix. When one of Pyke’s few friends in a position of power secures his early release on condition he look into the savage murder of an unidentified young woman found in a seedy London neighborhood, Pyke welcomes the chance to redeem himself in Felix’s eyes. No one is particularly interested in giving the mixed-race victim a name or bringing her killer to justice, but Pyke throws himself into the inquiry and follows the evidence all the way to Jamaica. As in the previous two books, there’s plenty of violence, but it’s never gratuitous and indeed helps make the protagonist more complex. (Jan.)