The second instalment in Graham Masterton’s Beatrice Scarlet series sees our titular heroine face even more trials and tribulations as she returns to her native London, where she has received a job offer. She is soon busy looking after the young women at St. Mary Magdalene’s Refuge, encouraging the girls to learn skills such as baking and sewing and to look after their own welfare.
When seven girls from the refuge go missing, Beatrice is worried, but when they are accused of practising Satanism, she is sceptical. However, everyone around her seems absolutely convinced. The girls had been working for a charming young factory owner, and he shows Beatrice the room the girls had stayed where the walls have been daubed in blood. Beatrice feels that it is all an elaborate sham. With the added complications of a new admirer and a strange figure stalking her, she is determined to find out the truth.
This series has so far presented plenty of thrills and spills, blending Masterton’s ability as a thriller writer with his grounding in the horror genre. Beatrice is a likeable heroine: caring, practical, and forthright, using her skills as an apothecary to great effect. While knowledge of the previous instalment would give the reader further insight into Beatrice as a character, it is not essential, so the novel can easily be read as a stand-alone. It’s steeped in the details of everyday life in 18th-century London and will appeal to readers of Phil Rickman or Alison Littlewood.