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Wednesday 8 July 2015

‘The Infidel Stain’ by M.J. Carter

Published by Penguin, Random House UK,
30 April 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-241-14625-5

The Infidel Stain is set in London in 1841. William Avery and Jeremiah Blake are reunited for the first time since their adventures together in India left them lauded as heroes. Since that time Avery has become a Captain in the army, although he has recently left the service, and Blake has continued his mysterious and solitary life as an investigator. On the surface no two men could be less alike. Avery is a country squire, respectably if not happily married; a man of moderate wealth, influence and power. Blake is a man of contradictions, he was brought up in poverty and understands the desperate measures people will take to survive, at the same time he is self-educated and free-thinking; although he works for the rich and powerful, he is very much his own man.

Blake has summoned Avery to London to work with him on solving the murder of two men, both printers, who lived in the poorer parts of London and printed and sold pornographic books. Blake has been employed by the wealthy and pious philanthropist, Lord Allington, who has had the murders brought to his attention and believes that the newly set up police force is not doing all they can to solve the crimes.

The story takes Blake and Avery from visiting in the homes of the wealthy and powerful to the dark, malodorous back alleys of the poor, hungry and desperate. Their lives are threatened by both the New Police and the Chartists and, as the danger grows more intense, they suspect that somebody very powerful is shielding the murderer.

I don't think I have ever referred to a novel I am reviewing as 'magnificent' before, but this is the word that came to mind as I read The Infidel Stain. It is clearly a well-researched novel that takes the reader into the dark side of Victorian life, with the poverty and desperation that leads to crime and violence. Avery is a well-meaning and, at times, naïve assistant to Blake's more subtle and inscrutable character and both protagonists are well drawn, likeable and fascinating.

The Infidel Stain is the second in the Blake and Avery books and I hope there will be more. It is an excellent read and I highly recommend it.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

M. J. Carter is a former journalist and the author of two acclaimed works of non-fiction: Anthony Blunt: His Lives and The Three Emperors: Three Cousins, Three Empires and the Road to World War One. M. J. Carter is married with two sons and lives in London.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.

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