The wages due to the Irish navvies digging a cutting for the Kelsford Canal are snatched, then one of the crooks is murdered and the money disappears. Detective Tom Norton investigates. There are multiple strands in this closely-plotted thriller set in the 1880s. The thieves work for the Fenian Irish Brotherhood, with its connections to New York gangsters. A wealthy widow, Ruth Samuels, is involved with helping persecuted Jews escape from Tsarist Russia. Amongst them is a Latvian anarchist eager to purchase guns from the Irish, who stays in Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel. Then there are the local businessmen constructing financial frauds. It is a heady brew.
The author makes the most of copious historical research, and his fertile imagination in constructing minutely-detailed backgrounds for even minor characters has to be admired. The tendency, however, of giving elaborate and often irrelevant biographies when any new characters are introduced breaks into the flow and pace of the story. I frequently think many novels would be improved by judicious pruning, and most of these mini-life histories could with benefit be cut. So could much of the background detail, though in amongst this ostensibly full account there is deliberate and misleading selection. A few hints to prepare readers for the final twist dénouement would have made the story more skilful.