I had read about the Hanover Square Affair a few months back and I finally got an opportunity to read this author when I got my Kindle. ( Yes, it has happened!)
Captain Lacey would have been a prime candidate for my ‘Dark, Melancholy Detectives’ write up, had I known about him earlier. He is brooding, bad- tempered and given to “fits of melancholia”, which prostrates him for a couple of days every time something bad happens in his life. He is a veteran of the peninsular wars and has taken voluntary retirement following an ‘almost’- scandal with his commander and one-time best friend, Colonel Brandon.
The first novel introduces us to Captain Lacey and in turn his initiation into the world of detection. As the novels progress so does the circle of friends around Lacey providing interesting foils to the grimness of his life. At the time the reader enter’s his life, Lacey has already gained the friendship of a powerful and rich socialite, Lord Grenville who is interested in the adventures that tend to befall Lacey and does everything in his power to assist him, not only monetarily but also in the form of manpower needed to do the legwork. Louisa Brandon is the wife of Colonel Brandon and the closest person to Lacey in the beginning even though her husband and Lacey are no longer cordial to each other. Also present is his neighbour, Mariaane Simmons, an actress who lives in the same rundown building as Lacey and is prone to stealing his candles and bread whenever his back is turned. James Denis is a powerful criminal of sorts whom Lacey encounters in the very first book of the series and who decides to foil Lacey’s efforts to dethrone him in an absolutely ingenious way.
I almost don’t like Captain Lacey as a person, even given his talent for deduction and his high moral values, at least as far as honor is concerned. He is just too volatile and uncontrolled in his reactions to situations and given to an over-abundance of pride that is usually misplaced. Louisa Brandon was another sore point for me, at least for the first few novels, as she seems to be unable to decide if she wants to stay with her husband or run away with her ‘friend’.Yet, the story engrosses one completely, as do the shenanigans of the absolutely fascinating list of secondary characters.
The mysteries that Captain Lacey undertakes solving or the ones that he is coerced into solving are both believable and engrossing, apart from being extremely well written. Lacey being a poor gentleman would never have been able to undertake half his assignments without the financial and moral support of Grenville and it still takes him 3 novels to appreciate the friendly aristocrat. James Denis with his vast repertoire of informants and his deep pocket is another person who pops in with important information at most convenient times and is therefore indispensable for the success of our unlikely hero. It is also heartening to see Lacey’s thought processes clearing up as the novels progress and him making inroads into a more stable frame of mind.
The Captain Lacey series are a must read for Regency – era lovers. It covers all aspects of the perfect pot-boiler – mystery, adventure, romance, bromance and intrigue. I am eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series not only for the mystery but also for the unfolding stories of all the protagonists.