Coronation Day, 1902. Charles and Kate Sheridan are pleased to be at the crowning of their king. But when an anarchist accidentally blows himself up with a bomb meant for their monarch, Charles and Kate turn up a number of intriguing--and disturbing--questions. For example, what is mysterious, beautiful Charlotte Conway--editor of the anarchist newspaper where the dead man was employed--doing in the arms of expatriate author Jack London?
In the 10th entry in this historical husband-and-wife amateur sleuth series (after 2003's Death at Glamis Castle), the pseudonymous Paige makes a less than successful attempt to comment on post-9/11 America. Once again, the powers-that-be ask liberal aristocrat Lord Charles Sheridan to investigate a crime, here the detonation of a bomb in Hyde Park that kills a suspected anarchist seemingly en route to Buckingham Palace shortly after the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. The explosion raises fear of further outrages, and the king's equerry delivers a royal request that Sheridan determine the extent of the terrorist threat. The lord's independent wife, Kate, slips into her usual role as unofficial helper, conducting a parallel inquiry. Atypically, there's no actual mystery to unravel, while the legitimate parallels between Edwardian England's fears of terror attacks and today's U.S. get lost amid heavy-handed touches such as naming the lead Scotland Yarder charged with protecting the British homeland "Ashcraft." Sheridan's speculation about the future invention of something very much like a cellphone is jarringly improbable. Finally, Jack London fans may be dismayed to see London commit a brutal crime that's totally out of character for the real-life adventure writer and socialist.
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January 31, 2005
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