Tom Wasp and the Newgate Knocker
Five Star, May 19 2010, $25.95
In 1863, master flue faker Tom Wasp visits his friend housekeeper Eliza Hogg at Newgate prison the day before the latter is to be executed for poisoning her spouse George. Tom understands murder is unacceptable in the eyes of the law so she will be hung though he feels accentuating circumstances makes the case unfair as her husband was an abusive violent man.
Eliza gives Tom a pawn ticket to redeem a dilapidated naval doll, which he does. Inside the doll, Tom and his twelve years old apprentice Ned find a statue of the Goddess of Mercy Kwan-yin. George robbed the statue during the burning of the Peking Palace. Soon two London gangs are at war with one another over the strangulation of maid Dinah Johnson, daughter of the Rat Mob chief Billy. He orders Tom to investigate and the chimney sweeper agrees due to his friendship with the victim’s sister. Upsetting the rival Nichol Gang, Tom, assisted by Ned and the self-anointed royal bug destroyer, carefully sweeps away the fog overwhelming his inquiry. Tom begins to believe an assassination is at the center of the power play.
The second Tom Wasp Victorian mystery (see Tom Wasp and the Murdered Stunner) is a wonderful amateur sleuth whodunit starring a charming chimney sweep trying to resolve two murders and perform his day job in the dangerous East End. The investigation is cleverly drawn as the scope widens at a nice pace. The cast is strong bringing to life London’s squalid East End at a time when the Prince awaits his Danish bride. Amy Myers writes an engaging historical murder mystery with international implications.