By Hannah March
Headline - February 2002
ISBN 074726628X - Paperback
Mystery / Historical - 1757, Bath

Reviewed by: Rachel A Hyde, MyShelf.Com
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Impoverished travelling tutor Robert Fairfax is now in Bath, that fashionable spa town and haunt of just about everybody who wants to cut a dash, come for the cure, make a fortune or find a partner and is always a good background for a story. Fairfax is befriended by a solider, meets a one-handed man and encounters the dreadful old roué St James Delabole who is there for the cure but is also making much of his long-estranged and beautiful daughter by his first wife much to the irritation of her wine merchant grandfather who has brought her up. He plans to leave most of his vast fortune to her and cut out the daughter of his living second wife but before he can do this, he is poisoned. Fairfax is then enlisted to solve the case by the same man who has engaged him as tutor for some less-than-acceptable and over jolly relations, but everybody he meets seems to be a suspect!

Fairfax is really down on his luck this time and is hitting the bottle, adding to the realism of this tale and taking away any unwanted coziness. Hannah March has more than hinted here at real poverty and desperation and this gives the series something of an edge, which is a good thing. Perhaps the fact that almost all the characters in the story - even those only encountered by chance - seem to have something to do with the case. This is rather too coincidental, but it does add to the feeling that the case has Fairfax in its coils and won't let him go. As ever the plot is center stage and the whole tale rattles merrily along keeping the reader guessing and trailing red herrings. An easy, entertaining read and fifth in the series.

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