Review: Murder at Queen’s Landing by Andrea Penrose

Review: Murder at Queen’s Landing by Andrea PenroseMurder at Queen's Landing (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery, #4) by Andrea Penrose
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery
Series: Wrexford & Sloane #4
Pages: 304
Published by Kensington on September 29, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

The murder of a shipping clerk . . . the strange disappearance of trusted friends . . . rumors of corruption within the powerful East India Company . . . all add up to a dark mystery entangling Lady Charlotte Sloane and the Earl of Wrexford in a dangerous web of secrets and lies that will call into question how much they really know about the people they hold dear—and about each other . . .

When Lady Cordelia, a brilliant mathematician, and her brother, Lord Woodbridge, disappear from London, rumors swirl concerning fraudulent bank loans and a secret consortium engaged in an illicit—and highly profitable—trading scheme that threatens the entire British economy. The incriminating evidence mounts, but for Charlotte and Wrexford, it’s a question of loyalty and friendship. And so they begin a new investigation to clear the siblings’ names, uncover their whereabouts, and unravel the truth behind the whispers.
As they delve into the murky world of banking and international arbitrage, Charlotte and Wrexford also struggle to navigate their increasingly complex feelings for each other. But the clock is ticking—a cunning mastermind has emerged . . . along with some unexpected allies—and Charlotte and Wrexford must race to prevent disasters both economic and personal as they are forced into a dangerous match of wits in an attempt to beat the enemy at his own game.

My Review:

Wrexford and Sloane are going to need the services of Professor Sudler’s mechanical Computing Engine (modeled after Charles Babbage and his Difference Engine) to calculate whodunnit and particularly why it was done in this fourth entry in the Wrexford & Sloane Regency historical mystery series.

It all begins with a murder that the police hope to put down to footpads, and an overheard conversation between friends who might – possibly, probably, unfortunately – have something to do with the dead body found on the docks at Queen’s Landing.

The dead man was a shipping clerk for the seemingly all-powerful East India Company, Bow Street, in the person of lead Runner Griffin, want Wrex to look into the mess, and Charlotte Sloane is all too rightly fearful that the conversation she overheard at her grand re-entry back into Society between her friend Lady Cordelia and Cordelia’s rather disheveled brother Woodbridge has something to do with the death.

Both Wrex and Charlotte really, truly, seriously had hoped that they were through with investigating murders, because the last one (Murder at Kensington Palace) got way too close to being one of theirs.

Charlotte now has too many hostages to fortune, too many people that she can’t bear to lose, that she rightly fears that her investigations could lead to one or more of their deaths. Surprising himself most of all, Wrex is the same, even if neither can admit that at the top of that list is their unacknowledged feelings for each other.

At the same time, they understand each other well enough to know that neither of them is going to stop rushing in where angels quite rightly fear to tread.

This case is one whose rotten heart certainly lies where no one would want to investigate, because the wealthy, powerful and highly connected East India Company is very much a law unto themselves. A law that the company has proven to be willing to enforce with deadly weaponry all around the world.

Home soil definitely not excepted.

But Wrex and Sloane follow where the case leads. In this case that leads from a much too trusting friend to a protective sister and an engineering genius in fear of all of their lives. Then is passes into the labyrinthine web of machinations and calculations at the heart of the East India Company.

It’s up to Wrexford and Sloane to find the snake at the center of this conspiracy and cut off its head before their friends become the latest in a long line of victims. Or before they do.

Escape Rating A: You wouldn’t think that it would be possible to make what is ultimately a financial crime be all that fascinating, but the machinations of arbitrage that turn out to be the center of this criminal conspiracy are both easy enough to follow and absolutely deadly in their application.

If the love of money is the root of all evil, then this evil is rooted in a group of high-ranking criminals who love money to the exclusion of all else and don’t care who stands in their way of getting it.

But, because the crime itself is a bit bloodless – even if the covering up of that crime is not – it takes Wrexford and Sloane and all of their friends more than a bit of painstaking clue hunting to reach the endgame in one only slightly bloodied piece.

Along the way, it’s very much a lesson in the heights and the sacrifices that the best of friends will undertake in order to help and support each other. Which is quite a bit of a departure from where both Wrex and Charlotte Sloane began this series in Murder at Black Swan Lake.

Which means that a big part of the appeal of this series so far has been the gathering of the ‘Scooby Gang’ around Wrex and Charlotte, a gathering that continues apace in this entry in the series.

A second factor in that appeal that also continues is the way that this series displays the dark and gritty underbelly of the glittering Regency period with a focus that is very different from its marvelous readalike series featuring Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin.

Devlin is all up in the politics of the period, while Wrex’ focus is on the scientific foment occurring at the same time. Sudler’s engine is just a bit earlier than Charles Babbage’s on which it is modeled, but not by much. And Babbage did accomplish the goal that Sudler sets for himself merely a decade later. The steam engine that Wrex’ friend Sheffield invests in was equally real.

And, as we all observe every day in our own time, advances in technology bring vast amounts of change to the human condition, not all of it good, not all of it bad, but all of it capable of changing the status quo well past the point of society’s ability to contain or even mitigate its effects.

All of which is reflected in the changes in Wrex’ and Sloane’s lives and in the crimes that they solve. This series is its own kind of historical mystery magic, and this entry in the series is absolutely no exception!

Two final notes before I leave you to pick up the Wrexford & Sloane series for yourself. First, there was a bit in the middle where I thought I’d read this book before because something was a bit too familiar. That was the result of a combination of resemblances. The tea/silver/opium triangle at the heart of the financial shenanigans was not only real history, but it was also part of the skullduggery in R.F. Kuang’s recent Babel. Combine that with the surreptitious search of Professor Sudler’s country retreat, whose setup and result resembles a similar scene in Candace Camp’s A Rogue at Stonecliffe, and I had a minute there where I thought I’d forgotten an entire book. If your reading tastes are similar to mine, I hope I’ve saved you that same minute of consternation.

But speaking of bookish resemblances, Murder at Queen’s Landing ends on a proposal signifying great changes to come, very much like the endings of Laurie R. King’s A Monstrous Regiment of Women and Dorothy L. Sayers’ classic Gaudy Night.

Which means that I’ll be picking up the next entry in this series, Murder at the Royal Botanic Gardens, to learn exactly what those great changes will be, the next time I’m in search of a comfortingly murderous read!

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