One early summer night in 1893, Victor Narraway, the head of
Special Branch, awakens Thomas Pitt with an urgent message: There
is a bomb threat from unknown anarchists. Racing to the scene, they
find people being evacuated and explosions tearing buildings
Narraway and Pitt chase after fleeing suspects and end up in the
tenements at Long Spoon Lane. Pitt, new to the Special Branch,
feels clumsy. He finds himself in a huge gunfight and shooting at a
fellow human for the very first time.
Inside the building they find two live anarchists and one dead man,
Lord Landsborough's only son, Magnus. It's obvious to Pitt that
because of the dead man's position, the police couldn't have shot
Magnus Landsborough. Did his fellow anarchists kill him? Or was it
an escaping murderer who was neither a policeman nor an
When Pitt questions one of the imprisoned anarchists about the
motive for the bombing, he exclaims --- with great passion and
terror --- that it was in protest over the corrupt police force.
His accusations of evil, vicious, greedy policemen encompass the
region covered by Pitt's old station. Surely things have not gone
so wrong in the year since he left? The anarchist's claim eats away
at Pitt. The morality of the organization he has spent his adult
life serving is at stake.
While the anarchists accuse a policeman of shooting Landsborough,
the police believe that a fellow anarchist was the murderer. Pitt
puts himself in mortal danger in order to delve into this mystery
as well as the distressing question of the corrupt police.
Pitt, his wife Charlotte, and their aunt Vespasia are horrified
when Lady Landsborough, the mother of the slain man, supports the
move to arm policemen, allow them to question servants in secret,
and permit them to search people and their homes without just
cause. The proposed measures would make the police too powerful,
Pitt and his family believe, and destroy the privacy of law-abiding
Pitt's previous co-worker and friend, Samuel Tellman, steadfastly
lays his job and life on the line to assist Pitt while Pitt's old
despised enemy, Charles Voisey, appears to be his ally. However,
Pitt knows that Voisey is untrustworthy and full of revenge toward
Pitt. Is Voisey setting him up?
There is much to love in LONG SPOON LANE. The characters are subtly
many-layered. Fans of this series, with its amazingly well-drawn
historical details, know the delight of time traveling back to
Victorian England, while the question of police power against
terrorist activity continues to be a timely theme. Unexpected plot
points and well-crafted motivations enliven a plot that plods a bit
at times, challenging readers as the characters engage in a few too
many conversations that sometimes cover previously covered
Although I felt that more action would have balanced the slow parts
of the story, I found LONG SPOON LANE to be an altogether
intriguing and enjoyable mystery.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (Terryms2001@yahoo.com) on December 30, 2010