Keeping Bad Company (A Liberty Lane Mystery)
At a gathering in London just prior to the First Opium War, “private inquiry agent” Liberty Lane is thrilled to meet her older brother, Tom. He and his East India Company superior, Griffiths, are summoned to London to testify before a parliamentary committee. The Chinese have recently confiscated shiploads of opium, and the “McDruggies” are yelling for compensation and war. Furthermore, Griffiths has been implicated in a murder and the theft of a large jewellery collection in India. Others from India—including a rani and her entourage—have arrived in London, presumably to settle old scores.
When Griffiths is found dead with his wrists slashed, it is considered a suicide. But Libby thinks otherwise, for Griffiths was planning to publish a pamphlet on the opium trade which would have discredited the merchants in the eyes of the committee, and likely swayed them in deciding against war with China; the merchants had lost a fortune. Furthermore, in Griffiths’ papers Libby notes that he had recorded the names of two acquaintances named the Merchant and the Soldier. Libby rationalizes that the jewellery has been brought for sale to England, and honest Griffiths has been silenced on account of it. With the help of her brother, a stable groom, and a street urchin, she sets out to determine the identity of and locate the Merchant and the Soldier, for surely one of them is the murderer.
While the parliamentary committee is mentioned, its deliberations on the Opium War are disappointingly sparse. Holmesian readers will detect a similarity between the plot of this novel and Doyle’s The Sign of Four, and Peacock’s period details and descriptions of London are just as evocative. Much like her earlier novels, Keeping Bad Company provides an enjoyable read leading to an unanticipated conclusion.