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The Hanover Square Affair    by Ashley Gardner order for
Hanover Square Affair
by Ashley Gardner
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Rashmi Srinivas

A mob hurling stones at a house in the prestigious Hanover Square neighborhood of London attracts the attention of cashiered cavalry officer, Captain Gabriel Lacey. When cavalrymen shoot the hapless instigator of the riot, Lacey intervenes. Investigation reveals the wounded man to be neither mad nor a troublemaker. He is a father out of his mind with worry about his beautiful young daughter's disappearance. His belief that his daughter was being held captive inside the Hanover Square house (owned by politician Josiah Horne) led him to near violence.

Lacey is a man of action, who was injured in the war and suffers from bouts of melancholia. He retains a strong sense of justice and chivalry, and believes in fighting for the underdog. When he investigates, his impetuosity and hot temper soon land him in big trouble. Who is the mysterious Mr. Denis (whom even the most influential men in London fear) and what does he have to do with events? Why is London's most sought-after man, Lucius Grenville, so eager to help Lacey? A young prostitute, a former lover, his ex-superior and his wife complicate Lacey's personal life, even as he struggles to solve a difficult and sordid case.

Ashley Gardner has created an engrossing historical mystery in The Hanover Square Affair, first in a new series. Captain Lacey is all too believable as an ex-military hero slowly succumbing to increasing bouts of melancholia in peacetime. Lacey is flawed he's rash, rude, hot-tempered and carries grudges and thus realistic; yet it is his innate sense of honor and duty, as well as courage under immense pressure and adverse circumstances, which earns him reader respect. Lacey is no Sherlock Holmes he plods along, makes mistakes, learns from them and thus makes progress.

The author's depiction of a London where glittering gaiety and haughty noblemen co-exist with poor, underprivileged working class people and the seedy underbelly of crime and prostitution, strikes true. With a brisk narrative, credible characterizations, a challenging mystery and an authentic period atmosphere, Ashley Gardner has created a winner. I look forward to further entries in the series - A Regimental Murder (May, 2004), and The Glass House (December, 2004).

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