cover image The Blood

The Blood

E.S. Thomson. Pegasus Crime, $25.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-68177-875-4

London apothecary Jem Flockhart tackles two cases in Thomson’s standout third Victorian mystery (after 2017’s Dark Asylum). Jem receives a message from her friend John Aberlady, who works at the Seaman’s Floating Hospital, a decommissioned naval frigate colloquially known as the Blood and Fleas, imploring her to come quickly. The ominous final sentence reads: “Come now, Jem, but come ready to face the Devil.” When Jem boards the Blood, which is anchored in the Thames, she learns that Aberlady has been missing for a week. In the course of her search for him, Jem finds the body of prostitute Mary Mercer in the water near the Blood. Soon she is also seeking Mary’s killer. The discovery validates Jem’s father’s grim dictum that “the corpses of men find their way into the river by accident. Women’s arrive there by design.” While the puzzle element of the plot is first-rate, what really distinguishes Thomson’s work is her depiction of London’s poor, whose precarious river-based livelihoods depend “on the direction of the wind.” Readers will eagerly await Jem’s next outing. [em]Agent: Jenny Brown, Jenny Brown Assoc. (U.K.). (Dec.) [/em]