The Infidel Stain

M.J. Carter's first novel, The Strangler Vine, was set in colonial India. In her second, The Infidel Stain, her heroes--Jeremiah Blake and Captain William Avery--have left the army and returned to Victorian England. Blake, a working-class jack-of-all-trades has reinvented himself as a private investigator, easily mingling on the mean London streets. Avery, however, is struggling to adapt to the life of a gentleman in Devon, so he eagerly answers Blake's call for assistance in an investigation.

Blake is being employed by Lord Allington, who uses his fame and fortune to aid London's most destitute. Allington has learned of the gruesome murders of several printers, to which the police have turned a blind eye in spite of the clear similarities among the mutilated bodies. As Avery assists Blake with his investigation, the two men are quickly drawn into the seamy underbelly of the printing world, uncovering ties to pornography and sedition. Avery's naïve, genteel worldview is especially disrupted by the shocking secrets they begin to uncover.

Meticulously researched and quickly paced, The Infidel Stain is sure to appeal to fans of mystery and historical fiction. With clear explanations of the political problems plaguing England in the 1840s, sad stories of social injustice and a host of unforgettable and funny characters, including reporters, beggars and shop-owners, Carter's novel is both informative and entertaining. Reading it is a bit like time traveling to the noisy, dirty London of Victoria's early years on the throne. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

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