DISTINCTION OF BLOOD
By Hannah March
Headline – Sept. 2000
Mystery / Historical / Thriller
Reviewed by: Rachel Hyde, MyShelf.Com
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Robert Fairfax earns his bread as a tutor following the suicide of his once-wealthy father and therefore has had experience of life both as a rich and a poor man. This gives him an insight into human nature that stands him in good stead in his unofficial occupation as a detective. In this, his third adventure he has just been engaged as a tutor to the two young sons of a wealthy sugar merchant but before he has even seen the boys he is urged to investigate his rakehell son-in-law Lord Mortlock. On the surface it seems as though Samuel Appleton's daughter Charlotte has made an excellent match for she is the daughter of a self-made man and Lord Mortlock is an aristocrat but not a rich one due to his habits. What is he up to? When he is found murdered after a night on the town the first suspect is the black salve Abraham who works as a footman in the house and who has just run away after an argument with the master. Then there is the dodgy doctor, the smiling and bland musician, the pretty ward of a Bluestocking hostess and of course the uncle of the man Lord Mortlock is supposed to have driven to suicide.
Hannah March has a deft way of describing the twin worlds of grandeur and squalor and all the noisy, tawdry pageantry of mid 18th century London. The story rattles along like a well-sprung coach and I was kept guessing until the end as to whodunit. Familiar characters Sir John Fielding and Dr Johnson are only mentioned in passing; as they are featured in other detective novels and to find them here too taking leading roles would have been unoriginal. I also admired the way in which the slave trade and its unfortunate victims formed part of the story but did not dominate it so much that the tale became a political soapbox. This was another real page-turner from a fine author and I look forward to the fourth in the series.