The first few pages of “Murder At Half Moon Gate” provoked, Ant, my inner pedant, into a rant about misused words, fluffy or impossible descriptions and misquoted sayings. You can see his points here.
With most books that would have been enough to push them onto my DNF pile. “Murder At Half Moon Gate” I not only persisted with but thoroughly enjoyed.
The things that so irritated Ant faded into the background like canned-laughter on a comedy or comically over-the-top spooky music in a horror film.
What came to the foreground was energetic fun.
This is a tale of mystery, action and deeply constrained romance in a pantomime version of Regency London that verges on SteamPunk, that is told with so much zest and brio that I wanted to applaud. This is a world where pluck matters, where the right thing is clear, where the baddies are damned black-souled cads and the goodies are charismatic in a stiff-lipped, tightly-buttoned-up-but-with-the-buttons-under-strain kind of way.
This time the plot revolves around discovering the murderer of an altruistic inventor of a better steam engine, found slain in the stews of London. We have themes around the industrial revolution, the painful disruption caused by change, the constraints placed on women and the newly emerged idea of patents.
Our two main protagonists; Lord Wrexford, the flinty, irascible aristocrat with an interest in science and Mrs Sloane, widow and outcast with a secret identity as Quill a much-feared satirical cartoonist continue to bounce off one another and to change one another. Secrets are disclosed, trust built, lives risked and saved and beneath it all, that essential ingredient: unresolved sexual tension – of the polite but intense Regency kind.