The Thief-Taker by T.F. Banks
(Delacorte, $23.95, V) ISBN: 0-385-33571-7
****
Bow Street constable Henry Morton is called out late one evening to Portman House where he discovers a dead young gentleman, Halbert Glendinning. While a cursory inspection by a doctor indicates Glendinning suffocated in his own vomit, closer inspection by Morton provides enough suspicions of foul play to commence an investigation.

Now, at the bequest of Glendinning's fiancée, Louise Hamilton, Morton is looking into his death and begins chasing Glendinning's last hours through early nineteenth century London. Starting with an unpaid hackney cab driver, Morton follows the trail into a world full of duels, bars and houses of ill-repute, places very unlikely for a man of Glendinning's ilk. As Morton's investigation takes him further and further away from genteel society, he finds it turning back on himself and the runners of Bow Street, until he finds himself a suspect and his life in danger.

With the battle between Napoleon and Wellington as a backdrop, T.F. Banks has authentically recreated Regency England, including the budding poet, Lord Byron. In Dickensian tradition, the streets of the two Londons, the genteel upper class and the squalor of the very poor, are deftly juxtaposed. The characters that fill this novel range from Henry's paramour, actress Arabella Malibrant, to the uneducated, crude hackney drivers, all of whom help the novel come to life.

Without the aid of modern forensics to aid in his investigation, Henry must convince others of his theories and hunches, something he handily does. A complicated plot that hints at the truth and provides a few twists at the end will keep readers' attention throughout. Mystery fans, as well as those enamored of the Regency period, will be equally pleased with this first entry into a new series.

--Jennifer Monahan Winberry


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