The Emperor’s Assassin
In July 1815, ex-emperor Napoleon Bonaparte waits on a ship in Plymouth harbor while Whitehall debates his fate: exile, execution, or a civil trial? Meanwhile in London, Bow Street runner Henry Morton investigates the brutal murder of a lovely young Frenchwoman, mistress of an émigré aristocrat representing King Louis in the Whitehall negotiations. Morton finds suspects among both Bonapartist spies and rival royalist factions struggling over Bonaparte’s fate. Luckily, Morton, a man of integrity and education in an occupation not known for either, understands French as well as London street slang.
For investigating assistance Morton turns once again to his actress friend Arabella and then hits the mean streets with his Bow Street colleagues. For advice on high-level politics he goes to Arabella’s other lover Lord Darley. Darley’s exceptional broadmindedness lacks credibility, but Morton’s attractive and complex character pulls the reader along through the loosely connected sub-plot intricacies.
Skillful writing by Banks (pseudonym for Sean Russell and Ian Dennis) makes the action and chase sequences vivid, as Morton and company follow a bloody trail along the London to Plymouth mail-coach route. On the whole, the plot is less compelling than in The Thief-Taker, first in this series, but Bow Street life and the London underworld are presented convincingly with a satisfyingly dramatic conclusion. Recommended for fans of Regency mysteries.