Sir John Fielding, a blind 18th-century London judge, is back in his Bow Street offices along with his young assistant Jeremy in this seventh installment in Bruce Alexander's well-crafted, intricately plotted series. When a crime spree in a well-to-do neighborhood not far from Sir John's home turns from robbery to murder, and witnesses identify the perpetrators as black men, the focus shifts from police work to prejudice. When the criminals are ultimately revealed to be white men in blackface, Jeremy and Sir John must look deeper into the hearts and minds of their neighbors to discover the real motive for the attacks and cast off their own biases before solving the crime. Alexander draws an accurate picture of racial hypocrisy in an era when slavery, though banned in England, was permitted in its colonies. He gets all the period details right, and his two sleuths get more interesting with every new outing in this historical series. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
Effectively combining the formality of 18th-century London with lively storytelling, the pseudonymous Alexander weds a tale of brutal robberies to the famous Somerset case, which revealed the many inconsistencies of British law as applied to slaves and slave ownership, in this latest outing for blind magistrate Sir John Fielding. A gang of robbers has begun invading wealthy homes, gaining entrance by subterfuge, herding the household staff into cellar or kitchen and in short order making off with as many valuables as possible. Organized and effective, the gang is also deadlyDexecuting one man and threatening others who hesitate to cooperate. The gang is notable because all its members appear to be black men. As more robberies occur, the outrage grows and threatens respectable blacks such as tutor Robert Burnham and Frank Barber, a member of Samuel Johnson's household. The criminals are even bold enough to attempt an attack on Sir John himself. Sir John provides the brain power and education while young Jeremy Proctor, his assistant and narrator, supplies legs, eyes and enthusiasm. Since the introduction of their partnership in Blind Justice (1994), this series has built a loyal following among sophisticated readers who appreciate the accurate period details. With its insights into the British legal system and the peculiar institution of slavery (then banned but still in evidence in Britain), Alexander offers food for thought as well as first-class entertainment that will gain him new fans. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.