It is 1824 Regency England. The British Empire is expanding and at its heart is the flourishing capital of London. Debt is a new type of money and the various banking houses cater to the moneyed classes. Banks are nothing without the trust of their customers and when the managing partner of one of the leading houses is arrested and accused of fraud he faces, if convicted, the scaffold.
It is magistrates’ constable Samuel Plank who carries out the arrest. In fact the whole saga is followed through the eyes of Susan Grossey’s well-drawn character, a solid, upright policeman determined to carry out his duties to the best of his abilities. The author is an expert in financial crime and is a part-time magistrate and, in this entertaining novel, explores the laws pertaining to fraud and forgery as they stood at the time. As the trial of Fauntleroy, the banker, progresses we are aware that the possible end game is execution with possibly only the whim of the King as a last refuge.
The real charm of this first novel of Grossey’s is how she brings alive the streets of London in the early 19th century – its streets, its characters, at a time when the city was the centre of the commercial world. But for all its modernity and thrust there are still the grim institutions of Coldbath and Newgate Prisons and a working-class population whose great pleasure is to turn out to see poor unfortunates swing at the end of a rope.
Will Fauntleroy hang? Read on. Will we see Plank uphold the law of the land in a future tale? I very much hope so.