hepherd-Robinson is fascinating on women’s portrayal in art, on the English obsession with the classics and on the relationship between vice and virtue and the shades of grey between them. Come for the clever mystery, stay reading late into the night for the vivid, tender portrayal of a world where women are bought, sold and abused, yet fight to retain their vim and dignity. I would gamble what’s left of my virtue on Daughters of Night being the best historical crime novel I will read this year.
An utterly fascinating trawl through the Georgian demimonde ensues, covering everything from the bestselling directory of London sex workers, Harris’s List, to the auctioning of maidenheads, the appalling ravages of venereal disease and a lightly fictionalised version of the notorious Hellfire Club. Niftily plotted, vivid and thoroughly researched, this immersive – if wrist-spraining – 569-pager is highly recommended.
In 1780s London, banker’s daughter Caro Corsham stumbles across a fatally wounded woman in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. She hires an overweight, boozy investigator named Peregrine Child to find the murderer, and together they plunge into the dangerous demimonde where rich men seek their pleasures. As other deaths follow, Caro grows ever more determined to uncover the truth, but the path towards it has many (perhaps too many) twists and turns, and leads to dark secrets within her own family.
London, 1782. In the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, a prostitute with a prestigious client list is murdered. The nascent police department at Bow Street (in a precursor of the Yorkshire Ripper case) is not fully committed, given the victim’s profession — but Caroline Corsham (whom we met in the previous book), discovered the woman and is keen to see justice done. She is aided by thief-taker Peregrine Child. Robinson presents Georgian society as riddled with hypocrisy, setting the spiky interaction of her mismatched duo (Caro in particular is a gratifyingly multi-faceted character) against a persuasive historical backdrop.