Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Two fire-related mysteries set centuries apart drive this middling double whodunit from Hawtrey (Ribbons of Scarlet as Sophie Perinot). In present-day London, Det. Insp. Nigella Parker, an arson specialist, is assigned to an odd blaze--someone set fire to a wooden figure of a person at the site of a memorial to the Great Fire of London of 1666. Nigella's fears that the vandalism is the precursor to something worse are validated when a burnt corpse, posed as if crucified, is found in the Inner Temple. A necktie bearing the image of St. Paul's Church was bound around its head, with a message written on its back that reads in part: "this fool died for all sinners who mistake celebrity for genius." Meanwhile, in 1666, Queen Catherine Braganza's maid, Margaret Dove, looks into the intriguing, if historically unsupported, theory that the conflagration that gutted the city was set intentionally for a sinister purpose. Neither lead is memorable, and the past story line offers a shocking solution to the fire's origin that will strike many as unpersuasive. This is no An Instance of the Fingerpost. Agent: Michael Carr, Veritas Literary. (May)
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Review by Library Journal Review
DEBUT In 1666, London was ravaged by the Great Fire, and Lady Margaret Dove, Maid of Honour to the Queen, along with Etienne Belland, Charles II's fireworks maker, searched for a killer who used the fire to cover up a murder. Over 350 years later, Detective Inspector Nigella Parker of the City of London police force teams up with DI Colm O'Leary of Scotland Yard as an artist obsessed with the work of Sir Christopher Wren leaves artwork, and then bodies, at historic sites associated with the famous architect. Lady Margaret and Belland hunt for the person who killed a bookseller in the shadow of fire. Parker and O'Leary are searching for a murderer who uses fire to kill and celebrate art. Two pairs of detectives, separated by time, uncover clues connected by one figure, Sir Christopher Wren. VERDICT Both story lines intensify, leading to unusual conclusions in Hawtrey's debut mystery. The well-developed characters will appeal to fans of historical mysteries or police procedurals and to Anglophiles.--Lesa Holstine
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
A series of increasingly scary blazes in contemporary London is linked to the most storied fire in the city's history. The only casualty in the first fire, at the monument commemorating the Great Fire of 1666, is a wooden sculpture the witness who finds it mistakes for a dead man. But the second ups the ante by claiming the life of randy solicitor Andrew Smyth, whose corpse is recognized by its distinctive necktie. Working with her Met counterpart, DI Colm O'Leary, the City of London's DI Nigella Parker, nicknamed "the moth" because of her fascination with fires, painstakingly follows every clue--but they lead either to dead ends, like office cleaner Nelson Taylor, who stops sputtering long enough to provide a most convincing alibi, or to the year of the Great Fire. Meanwhile, Hawtrey, not content to invoke the past through thematic and geographical parallels, intertwines her primary investigation with a second story: the fate of Margaret Dove, Maid of Honour to Queen Catherine Braganza, who begins 1666 by falling in love with Etienne Belland, who makes fireworks for Catherine's husband, King Charles II, and then, after witnessing the Great Fire from an agonizingly intimate position, begins to suspect a most unlikely perpetrator. Although the author acknowledges in an afterword that the Great Fire was almost certainly started by accident, readers swept up in this double-barreled inferno will forget the history they know as they root for both heroines to bring the malefactors to book before things get even hotter. The ambitious, audacious rewriting of the historical record will linger long after the routine tale of present-day arson. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.