The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner aka Jennifer Ashley

London, 1816. Captain Gabriel Lacey, wounded in the Peninsular Wars – those blasted Frenchies again – stumbles upon the beginnings of a riot outside number 22 Hanover Square, where a man is demanding the return of his daughter. It seems that the girl disappeared weeks previously, but she had been sighted apparently entering the house in question, the home of Horne, a Member of Parliament. On investigating, he comes across tales of other missing girls, but not before Horne is brutally murdered in his home. Can Lacey get to the bottom of the mystery? Or will he end up at the bottom of the river?

But of course, we are missing the most important question. What on earth is the Puzzle Doctor, reviewer of novels of mystery and mayhem, doing reading a book with a cover like that?

This is the first of, to date, eight in a series of Captain Lacey mysteries, and yet again, it’s another Kindle cheap buy – I’m having great difficulty resisting the recommendations list when the book is a bargain and it’s got good reviews – which this one has. And it’s come to the point where there are so many books in my “Unread Books” folder that I’m picking them basically at random. To explain a little, as I see it, Ashley Gardner is a pseudonym for Jennifer Ashley, who writes books across a variety of genres – mostly period romances, with some fantasy thrown in as well. Most of them seem to have covers like this one – basically man with shirt off embracing woman, shirt optional in her case. So the cover of this book is presumably to appeal to readers of Ashley’s other series. But this was advertised as a murder mystery, so I thought I’d give it a try.

And as well… maybe this is petty, but I was sort of in the mood to really let fly at a book. I’ve had a busy week, and I fancied letting off a bit of steam. Childish, I know, but I’m only human. So I thought this would be an easy target.

Unfortunately, things never work out the way you plan them. This was really rather good.

We’re in the reign of George III – the mad one – and Lacey, having left the army, is down on his luck, but surviving. But as a good honourable Georgian gentleman, he needs to intercede when he sees a wrong being done. Lacey is a very well-constructed character, with his motivations laid clear while maintaining enough back-story to leave you wanting to know a little more. He’s got a decent supporting cast as well, all of whom with the potential to go in different directions in future tales.

Oh, and the cover – I’ve mentioned annoying blurbs, but I’d love to know if anyone bought this expecting heaving bosoms only to discover some very nasty goings on and a murder victims who has his testicles hacked off. It made me squirm a bit, so I can’t imagine what a reader new to the genre who might be expecting something else got.

Anyway, apart from Horne’s murder, Lacey also has to find three missing girls and contend with some of the nastier areas of Georgian society, and it keeps you reading. In fact, I read the second half of the book in one sitting.

The mystery… well, the murderer was a genuine surprise to me, although in a good way. Very clever situation, I thought. Clues were basically non-existent – so it’s a book for detectives who like inspired guesswork, but I have to say, that was my only niggle.

A genuine surprise this one – it won’t be for everyone, but it had certain echoes of the style of Paul Doherty (although he usually sticks at least one clue in) and obviously, if you read my blog, then you know that’s not a bad thing. There are much worse things to spend 72p on.

Highly recommended, much to my surprise.

This is part of the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

5 comments

  1. Honestly, with that kind of title and cover image, the word “affair” sprouted up a very different image in my mind… Glad to hear your reaction was far more positive than could be expected!

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  2. This is a new cover. When the book first came out it had a much different (more period mystery look) cover and that’s how I read it. This is a little pet peeve of mine…there are other historical mysteries out there that this has happened to….Anne Perry’s Thomas Pitt series and Deanna Raybourn’s series to name just a couple. I don’t know if they (“they” being the promotional whiz-kids) think this sort of thing will get the bodice-ripper crowd to try out a mystery or what. But it irritates the heck out of me.

    Like

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