London 1882, and the young David Wildeblood starts work on Henry Marchmont’s staff as researcher/journalist on the weekly publication The Labouring Classes of London. Wildeblood has been given the increasingly impoverished area known as Somers Town, located between the rail stations of Euston and St Pancras in north London, to investigate the conditions of the poor who live there. Marchmont is based very closely upon the real Henry Mayhew, who was an indefatigable reporter on the conditions of London’s poorer classes. Wildeblood, who has a few secrets of his own, is an articulate and intrepid defender of the poor in his patch. He begins to uncover a network of shady practices by wealthy and uncaring landlords and soon finds himself drawn into a dangerous pursuit of justice. He has a loyal ally in Jo, a costermonger in the area, and slowly develops the trust of Jo’s attractive sister, Roma.
There is a series of violent confrontations as the novel reaches its conclusion. The writing is capable if not of the quality of the best literary fiction. There a few thumping coincidences, clichés, and occasional overuse of selected words – “rebarbative” appears to be a big favourite of the writer. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining read, which rumbles along quite pleasantly.