Sir John Fielding returns in Alexander's entertaining fifth fictionalized case (after Person or Persons Unknown, 1997) for the real-life 18th-century English magistrate known as "Blind Beak." A master of character and plot, Alexander also captures the sounds, smells and social undercurrents of 1770s London. While attending an evening's entertainment, the blind Sir John, his wife, Katherine, his young "amanuensis," Jeremy Proctor (who narrates this series), and Annie, the family's 16-year-old cook, witness the death of elderly Lord Laningham. Although the death is ascribed to natural causes, Sir John suspects poison. Lady Laningham, who delays heeding his call for an autopsy, is herself soon poisoned, casting suspicion on the Laningham heir, Arthur Paltrow. The discovery of a severed head in the Thames engages Jeremy and his friend Jimmie Bunkins in a case involving a ne'er-do-well carpenter, who had come up before Fielding on a charge of public drunkenness, and the missing owner of a pawn shop. For Jeremy, the headstrong daughter of the carpenter provides added aggravation when, suffering from pneumonia, she appropriates his bedroom.
Fifth Sir John Fielding historical mystery set in 1770's London and centering on the Bow Street Court. As usual with this series, several mysteries entwine to make an interesting mix. Annie, the cook, is learning to read and also joins a local choir. Jeremy begins reading his law books as his responsibilities for Sir John grow greater, and he feels much shame when he lets a prisoner escape. When it is brought to light later that the prisoner has a 12-year-old daughter, Jeremy gets involved with trying to help them. Meanwhile, Sir John is certain that the nephew of a prominent citizen has killed him off, but is unable to prove it--yet. As always, an excellent entry in the series, one of my favorites in the historical mystery genre.