The Blood: A Jem Flockhart Mystery (Jem Flockhart Mysteries)

Written by E. S. Thomson

The third in the Jem Flockhart and Will Quartermain series is set primarily on the noxious floating naval hospital on the river Thames, known colloquially as The Blood. Jem is an apothecary, her big secret being that from childhood she has gone about her business disguised as a man in order to allow her to pursue her profession at a time in Victorian London when it was not acceptable for females to follow such pursuits. Will is a property surveyor and has formed a close platonic bond with Jem, in which they solve some grand-guignol themed murders. Jem and Will first visit The Blood when Jem receives a puzzling message from a fellow apothecary, John Aberlady, who is based on the vessel. He goes missing and then they discover the corpse of streetwalker Mary Mercer near an adjacent run-down building which Will is to convert to a warehouse. Mary has been murdered and once more, the game is afoot.

Like the two previous books in the series, the plotting is excellent and the story rattles along in entertaining style. While the narrative is capable, the ending is perhaps a little flat and the story rather fizzles out. I also have to point out that while they are rounded and likeable characters, both Jem and Will are unrelentingly enlightened and their views on tolerance and fairness come straight from the 21st century. The novel is rather coloured with today’s obsession with identity politics, whether it be gender or race.