Though I’ve only recently started to read Penrose’s Wrexford and Sloane Regency-set mysteries, they quickly became favourites, with anticipation for the next book to drop into my e-reader. Though beset by the clean-up/book orders/final reports weeks of another school-year end, I joyfully crawled into Charlotte and Lord Wrexford’s world (whose first name still eludes, by the way, but a strong hint in this volume) during my meagre leisure time.
Wrexford and Sloane #4 is as reader-sigh-worthy satisfying as were the previous ones. In this case, I admit to muddle-headedness concerning the financial machinations surrounding the murder (never a head for the numbers, that’s me). The publisher’s blurb will elucidate way better than I:
When Lady Cordelia, a brilliant mathematician, and her brother, Lord Woodbridge, disappear from London, rumors swirl concerning fraudulent bank loans and a secret consortium engaged in an illicit—and highly profitable—trading scheme that threatens the entire British economy. The incriminating evidence mounts, but for Charlotte and Wrexford, it’s a question of loyalty and friendship. And so they begin a new investigation to clear the siblings’ names, uncover their whereabouts, and unravel the truth behind the whispers.
As they delve into the murky world of banking and international arbitrage, Charlotte and Wrexford also struggle to navigate their increasingly complex feelings for each other. But the clock is ticking—a cunning mastermind has emerged . . . along with some unexpected allies—and Charlotte and Wrexford must race to prevent disasters both economic and personal as they are forced into a dangerous match of wits in an attempt to beat the enemy at his own game.
Hmmm, all is correct, except for “Charlotte and Wrexford also struggle to navigate their increasingly complex feelings for each other” … um, nope, it’s obvious they’re in love. With Charlotte’s past of a if-not-failed-then-disappointing marriage and Wrexford’s emotional reticence, maybe they have a tad trouble admitting their feelings, but what they are and who they’re for, clear as a lake on a windless day.
Two reasons dominate my love for Penrose’s series: the merry-band who work together, with Charlotte and Wrexford at their core, for justice and the relationships among them. Oh, there’s no doubt I adore Charlotte and the handsome, raven-haired, green-eyed Wrexford, but for sheer aplomp and delight, nothing matches Charlotte’s adopted sons, former-street-urchins, “The Weasels,” so-called by Wrexford. Penrose added a pet hound, Harper, to the two and they are now perfection, especially when this volume adds MOAR street urchins, Alice the Eel Girl, Skinny, et al. Street urchins are Wrexford and Charlotte’s project, collecting waifs along their investigations’ ways, giving them a better life and enriching their own by adding to the people they love. That is the series’s glue: bringing justice in a swashbuckling Scarlet-Pimpernel and merry-band way and taking care of each other, bonded in friendship and love. Is it idealized, YES, thank the reading gods who look after those formerly lost in litfic’s murky lugubriousness.
Penrose’s series contains myriad strengths. Reading the author’s note, her research and historical knowledge are impressive. The financial “havey-cavey,” as The Weasels are fond of saying, is brought to light and comes alive for the reader. (The other series equalling this strength would be C. S. Harris’s Sebastian St. Cyr.) Moreover, Penrose immerses the reader in a good mystery yarn and doesn’t neglect her characters’ emotional depth. Charlotte and Wrexford start the series solitary and near-friendless, emotionally inhibited; therefore, one of the series’s pleasures is to watch them with an ever-expanding circle of friends, a community of the like-minded, children to care for, to love and who love them, and to find each other, initially as allies and friends, eventually, romantic partners. There are faithful servants whose lives are enriched by their employers instead of exploited; in this volume, animals join the fray and circle and ever-present are McClellan’s (Charlotte’s lady’s maid/cook/friend) ginger biscuits, The Weasels’ favourite. In this particular volume, I especially loved Penrose moving the merry band to Wrexford’s country estate, which added barn-puppies and beautiful country-side descriptions. As for the final scene, long time coming and thoroughly misty-eyes- and sigh-worthy.
I recommend you start the series with book one, Murder on Black Swan Lane while I wait, fingers drumming impatiently, for Murder at the Royal Botanic Gardens, coming in September. In the meanwhile, consulting Miss Austen, we deem Murder at Queen’s Landing “a mind lively and at ease,” Emma.
Andrea Penrose’s Murder at Queen’s Landing is published by Kensington Books. It released in September of 2020 and may be found at your preferred vendor. I am grateful to Kensington Books for an e-galley, via Netgalley, for the purpose of writing this review.