Penzler Pick, November 2001:
The first in a new series called "Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner," this well-executed historical draws readers back into the London of the early 19th century, when hackney coaches fought for space with brewery carts, horse-drawn chaises, peddlers' wagons, and milling throngs on the city's rough-and-tumble streets.
Banks has created a living, breathing landscape peopled with such characters as Bow Street constable Henry Morton and his intimate acquaintance, actress Arabella Malibrant, along with Chief Bow Street Magistrate Sir Nathaniel Conant, all of whom one will be delighted to encounter again.
When we first meet the large, lean Morton, with his "dark and inquisitive" eyes, the independent-minded officer of the law has been summoned from the boxing ring, where he regularly takes evening exercise, to the Portman Square townhouse of Mrs. Malibrant. There a rich young gentleman in an unfortunate condition (he is dead!) has arrived in a hackney, the driver of which has disappeared into the gloom of night.
Apparently the corpse had been alive enough that very morning to participate in a duel, but he has not succumbed to any wounds sustained in that battle. Upon seeing the body, as Arabella reports to Morton, one of her dinner guests, a Miss Louisa Hamilton, nearly fell over prostrate with grief.
"If you had heard poor Miss Hamilton cry out, Henry, you would have done anything to ease her pain. I tell you, it was wrenching. I could never duplicate it." She pitched her voice low and tried anyway. "'Oh, Richard, Richard...'"
"Very touching, I'm sure," Morton said. "There is only one problem...."
Arabella raised one perfect eyebrow.
"His name was not Richard."
Not all mystery fans enjoy the historical subgenre, while others read nothing else. This book is entertaining enough to appeal to either group, with T.F. Banks possessing the confidence and light touch of an outstanding new talent. --Otto Penzler
From Publishers Weekly
Canadian author Banks depicts a Regency London as grimly fascinating as Dickens's Victorian London in this neatly plotted historical introducing Bow Street constable Henry Morton. When the body of Halbert Glendinning, a gentleman of impeccable character, turns up one night in a hackney cab with no driver in Claridge Square, it appears he choked to death on his own vomit. Fearing foul play, the dead man's fiance hires Morton to investigate. Morton himself suspects poison, but in the early days of forensics such a verdict is difficult to establish. The constable's search for answers takes him from the town houses of the wellborn to the notorious brothels and gin-shops of Spitalfields. What he finds leads him not just to question the mode of Glendinning's death but to uncover a web of deceit and corruption that endangers his own life and reaches far beyond the scope of his original commission. The author brings his characters to life in dialogue both natural and evocative of the period, while the relationship between Morton and his servant, Wilkes, is as enjoyable as that between Margery Allingham's Campion and Lugg. In addition to the small details, Banks captures the complex moral tenor of the time on a variety of social levels (Morton's landlady is appalled to discover she's been renting rooms to a "horney"). Other Regency mysteries may feature historical personages such as Jane Austen or Beau Brummel as detectives, but the fictional Henry Morton shines in his debut without benefit of an established identity. (Oct. 16)Forecast: The classy jacket art and crossover appeal to Regency romance readers should give this title a boost.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.