The novel begins with a heartrending event as a man drowns his small daughter and then himself in the river. The reasons why become evident as the novel progresses. A gang led by the unpleasantly vicious villain Nathaniel Caine is oppressing and exploiting the poor of the city. He and his gang make loans to the desperate then set a high level of interest for repayments and demand the money with menaces.
The book follows James Daunton as he becomes unwittingly involved in a fight against the gang. It escalates into an ongoing battle where only one can survive. Daunton must gather together allies in the worst districts of the city in order to stand any chance against Caine. There are also various subplots, involving the beautiful actress Belle and her heartbreak after being lied to and taken advantage of by the deceitful Harcourt, who also plays a vital yet unwitting part in the struggle against the Caine gang.
The story is reasonably tense with some interesting plot twists and turns, and the atmosphere of the times is well-conveyed with no jarring anachronisms, but sometimes the dialogue is not as convincing as it could be and there is a little more ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’. Perhaps this is due to the fact that this is a debut novel. A solid read, therefore, that offers a well-thought-out and organised plot based on real events and with some appealing characters. A new author whose next novel I await with interest.