This is the fifth book in the Westerman/Crowther series and although the books do stand alone, I have enjoyed the progression of the characters from book to book, and this one in particular is a better read with some prior knowledge of the set up.
Gabriel Crowther is an anatomist who happens to be in London when a murder is commotted – an ex slave trader is found tied down wearing a punishment mask which he himself had designed to use on his slaves. Together with his close friend, Harriet Westerman, Crowther must investigate the slave trade itself in order to understand what may have lead to the death.
I do really like the characters of Westerman and Crowther and have enjoyed their investigations in the previous novels. It’s quite refreshing not to have lots of hi-tec equipment available and to have to rely on deductions and thought processes to understand the crimes. I thought it was alsp very clever to focus on the slave trade as a background to the novel and for the characters to form opinions which must be similar to decisions made by many people at the time.
My favourite character in this book is the bookseller Francis Glass, himself an ex slave, who has been allowed to buy his freedom and now has a responsible job. His complicated relationship with both himself and the other characters, really brings the story of individual slaves alive, as I am sure Ms Robertson intended.
My only slight disappointment was the reveal at the end of some extra information about one of the characters which I did think was slightly unnecessary and a step too far, in fact, it almost seemed an excuse to end the novel there which I felt it did not need.
However, another really enjoyable read from the pen of Imogen Robertson, I highly recommend it.