Suspenseful mystery with infanticide, romance, and a happy ending…except for the killer who swings.
Tessa Harris has transformed the horrible facts of a Victorian infanticide killer into a page-turning murder mystery. She writes masterly prose, depicting for twenty-first century readers the ambiance of London in the late Victorian period. The chapters read quickly because Harris knows how to create suspense. Moreover, her descriptive powers are fine; see, for example, chapter 38, especially pages 270-271, wherein the bodies of the killed infants are discovered, buried in a garden.
Best of all, unlike some modern writers who justify abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia, Harris’ novel rightfully disdains the murders of infants at the hands of the “baby farmer” Mother Delaney. Thus, like a good Cops or The First 48 television episode, readers will enjoy the denouement, where a sense of justice prevails.
And, yeah, even guys will appreciate the light romance (no stupid sex scenes here, thank God) between Detective Constable Hawkins and Constance Piper, especially as depicted on pages 84-5. Male readers will want to scream, “Just ask her out already”; female readers will sniffle and mutter, “Aw, how cute!” Nothing saccharine, though; Harris uses the light romance between these characters to illustrate the rigid social structure of late Victorian Britain.
There are many other heartwarming, life-affirming episodes in the novel. Louisa Fortune, a governess, becomes pregnant out of wedlock, but, instead of aborting the child, she chooses adoption. This same unborn child saves Louisa from committing suicide; she is wise enough to understand that it is not right to kill the innocent unborn child because of her own mental and moral anguish. Constance’s sister, who also becomes pregnant out of wedlock, eventually accepts the unborn child, even after trying to self-abort and without the father’s support.
I read many life-denying novels from authors who are themselves pro-abortion, pro-infanticide, or pro-euthanasia. While I don’t know her political views on the life issues, Tessa Harris is one of those gifted writers who not only entertain us with a fictionalized account of a horrible episode in British crime history, but also renew in us the sense that we must protect the lives of newborn babies.