cornerofmadness (cornerofmadness) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
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Book 5

Absence of Mercy (A Lightner and Law Mystery #1)Absence of Mercy by S.M. Goodwin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I very much enjoyed this historical mystery. I will say (for those who might mind) this is darker than many historicals and since a lot of it is set in the Five Points area of NY and within brothels, the language is a lot coarser.

Lord Jasper Lightner, wounded hero of the Crimean war is instantly likeable. He's highly intelligent and wants to bring the newer policing techniques being employed in France thanks to Vicdoq to London but his father, who dislikes him anyhow, is too embarrassed and he finds himself with a choice, quit or go to NYC to teach them. He shocks them all by taking the latter option.

Jasper finds himself with a two-pronged welcome. For one, NYC is in the middle of ripping down one corrupt police department and trying to rebuild a fairer better one (timely!) so they aren't pleased to see him, especially since he is a lord and the police is populated by poor Irish/Welsh members. On the other hand, he is handsome and it's all the rage for American blue bloods to find a British royal to marry.

Hy Law has been scapegoated for the wrongful arrest of a prostitute and her suicide and is the horrible Tomb when Jasper springs him, mostly interested in what Law knows about the two dead wealthy men now that the police files are missing and the prostitute who supposedly killed them is dead and couldn't possibly be responsible for the third dead businessman killed in an identical and grisly manner.

Jasper and Hy have no support - in fact are hounded by the police - as they try to find out who might be killing these businessmen who by the end you might find yourself rooting for whoever killed them. As mentioned above the action is mostly in NYC's infamous Five Points which was mired in corrupt politics, vicious gangs, brothels and poverty. A lot of social justice ideas are woven into this, the plights of free Blacks (and what happens to Whites who help them avoid slave takers), poverty, women and misogyny, even trans rights.

Hy and Jasper are fascinating characters from two contrasting upbringings (Jasper rich with everything he could have wanted except love and Hy a poor orphan raised by vicious nuns) We know more about Jasper and there is a bit of inconsistency in him. He stutters badly (and he uses that to get people to underestimate him because this is definitely a time period where a stutter was seen as indicating low intelligence) and he has memory issues which I thought were on going but maybe not. He received a traumatic brain injury after being shot in the head in the war and much of his past is gone but if he had ongoing issues (which I thought he did in England but maybe I misread that) He has issues with opium and there are other habits of his that might not be good but we don't know them yet, at least not fully.

The mystery was very well done and I loved Hy and Jasper's partnership. I'll be looking forward to more of this.



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Tags: historical mysteries
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