Fugitive from the Grave (Bow Street Rivals)
London, 1817. This is the fourth in Edward Marston’s The Bow Street Rivals series. The private detectives, twins Peter and Paul Skillen, are plunged into a new case – and one with too many ramifications for comfort. Clemency van Emden, an English lady married to a Dutchman, has received a mysterious letter telling her that her estranged father, George Parry, is dead and buried. Desperate, she comes to London to beg for the Skillens’ help in finding out what happened and where he’s buried. As if that were not enough, the brothers’ rivals, the Bow Street Runners, have allowed the notorious thief, Harry Scattergood (whom the twins had captured), to escape from prison. And there is a new spate of body-snatching from nearby cemeteries. The local magistrate wants results – and fast. The runners are desperate to retrieve their reputation – if only they can stop the Skillen brothers from finding Harry first. Events are complicated by Paul’s sweetheart, the diva actress, Hannah Granville, being robbed on her way to Bath to perform in As You Like It. The highwayman, having stolen her jewels, now stalks her, so Paul stays in Bath to find Hannah’s assailant.
Much though I usually enjoy Edward Marston’s detective novels, I found Fugitive from the Grave over-complicated. For example, the escape of Harry Scattergood is set up at the beginning as a major strand, but he soon becomes a minor character, popping up occasionally, but doing little to further the plot. The George Parry strand – the ‘fugitive’ of the title – is reduced to comparative insignificance. For me, the theatre strand took up too much space and had nothing to do with what had happened to George Parry, and I longed for Paul to detach himself from the histrionic Hannah. However, it’s certainly readable and Marston fans should enjoy it.