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S. J. Parris and Stephanie Merritt

Review < Back

The Infidel Stain - MJ Carter’s smartly plotted murder mystery

Sunday 24th May 2015

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Historical detective stories are enjoying a renaissance at the moment, and among the most welcome recent additions to the genre was MJ Carter’s 2014 debut, The Strangler Vine, a novel that proved both its literary and commercial credentials by being shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association’s New Blood Dagger award and longlisted for the Baileys women’s prize. In The Infidel Stain, her “private enquiry agents”, Jeremiah Blake and William Avery, are back for their second outing, returned from their postings with the East India Company to a fog-shrouded London blighted by poverty, political unrest and violent murder.

It’s 1841, four years into the new queen’s reign, and Avery, promoted to captain after a stint in the Afghan wars, has returned to England at his wife’s behest, only to find married life still won’t run smoothly and the routine of a Devonshire landowner lacking in adventure. So, naturally, he jumps at a summons to London from Blake to assist in a private investigation into the gruesome murder of two disreputable printers, which London’s new police force seems inclined to ignore. Blake has been commissioned to look into the matter by Lord Allington, a philanthropic peer prone to fits of melancholy and in thrall to his pious sister...

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