London, 1782. Desperate for her politician husband to return home from France, Caroline ‘Caro’ Corsham is already in a state of anxiety when she finds a well-dressed woman mortally wounded in the bowers of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. The Bow Street constables are swift to act, until they discover that the deceased woman was a highly paid prostitute, at which point they cease to care entirely. But Caro has motives of her own for wanting to see justice done, and so sets out to solve the crime herself. Enlisting the help of thieftaker Peregrine Child, their inquiry delves into the hidden corners of Georgian society, a world of artifice, deception and secret lives.
But with many gentlemen refusing to speak about their dealings with the dead woman, and Caro’s own reputation under threat, finding the killer will be harder, and more treacherous, than she can know . . .
It took me a while to get into Daughters of Night but once I did I was all the way in. The novel is set in 1782 London and Laura Shepherd-Robinson paints such a vivid image of that era, it is all quite detailed. Daughters of Night must be one of the most researched novels I read so far, at least it felt that way. I struggled a little bit at first with some of the terms and language so I started to make a list of words that I needed to look up. Maybe you know these terms already because you are either native English or you read a lot of historical novels: tipstaffs, penny bunter, pugilist, peccadillous, buttered cardoon, ormolu workers, quim,.. but I certainly learned a few new words and meanings that I normally don’t come across in crime novels set in the present day. After a while though I did get the hang of the atmosphere and it became easier to read. I didn’t need to pause my reading so much anymore and that certainly helped to enjoy the story more.
The story was quite intriguing. Caro Corsham – a woman who has a secret of her own – is on a mission to find the killer of a prostitute who had impersonated an Italian contessa and befriended her in that persona. Caro employs thief taker Peregrine Child to help her and while he goes into ‘a bawdy house’ and talks to people on the street, she concentrates on a select group of men of her own standing who all seemed to cross ways with the great artist Agnetti who painted the girls as goddesses. He seemed pleasant enough though, it’s his wife who made me raise questions.
I very much enjoyed their investigation but I must say that I was always looking forward to the chapters from the perspective of a young girl named Pamela too. She went missing, along with another girl so her fate was still unclear and I held out a little bit of hope that she was still alive. These plotlines, the murder of one girl and the two missing girls are intermixed in so many brilliant ways making Daughters of Night quite a complex story. Nothing is as straightforward as you think and I would never have been able to imagine the different paths this novel takes.
Daughters of Night is a totally engrossing read, not the most easiest novel to read for me perhaps but challenging me in a good way and very satisfying in the end. Oh and if perhaps you want to find out what puzzle purses are, there’s no better way to find out than picking up this novel!
I received a paperback copy of this novel in my Capital Crime bookclub subscription box. This is my honest opinion.