Allison & Busby - August 2001
ISBN 0749005017 - Hardcover
Historical Mystery - 1759, Sidmouth, Devon, England

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde,
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This is the seventh of the John Rawlings mysteries featuring the inventor of the fizzy drink and the famous "Blind Beak" John Fielding. You won't find the latter in there this time though for Rawlings and his new wife Emilia are on their honeymoon in Sidmouth, Devon in England's wild west country. He doesn't get to indulge much in the traditional pastimes of a honeymoon but he does get to solve a crime. Dutch merchant Jan van Guylder from the nearby port of Topsham seems an ordinary man faced with the usual problems of rebellious teenage children but soon he is to have some rather larger and more tragic problems. Juliana is found dead tied to the figurehead of a schooner and is proved to have been raped then murdered. She seems to have had more than her share of lovers and was expecting the child of one of them - but where is her missing brother? And how do the mysterious haunted house, phantom coach and the terrible Society of Angels from Exeter fit in? Somehow John isn't going to have much time for his new bride and this is going to make complications of its own.

This delightful series gives most of its main characters a holiday but the old sparkle is still as much present as ever and the whole thing fizzes merrily along like one of the protagonist's fizzy drinks. There is always something going on and Lake tells is all in just the right number of words, describing life in the robust mid 18th century this time far from London with a cast of provincial fops, fishermen and west country worthies in a well realized setting that rings true to this reviewer - who lives there! As usual there is much to enjoy in here with a teasing case and a cast of lively characters. Lake is surely one of the top ten novelists writing in this ever-popular genre in Britain; I recommend it highly and hope that there will be an eighth novel out before I start getting withdrawal symptoms. Great stuff!

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