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The Rose in the Wheel    by S. K. Rizzolo order for
Rose in the Wheel
by S. K. Rizzolo
Order:  USA  Can
Poisoned Pen, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

A particularly shocking murder in Regency London pushes Bow Street runner Constable John Chase to the point of exhaustion. Constance Tyrone is left to die under the wheels of a racing hansom cab. Why is the question that must be answered. Then the who might be found. S. K. Rizzolo has woven a tightly paced mystery in the London of 1811, showing us not only the drawing rooms of the privileged, but also the seamier side of life in the dens, pubs and tenements of the poor.

Penelope Wolfe, a sometime wife and full time mother, becomes involved and so puts herself in peril. She hopes to bring peace to the murdered woman by denouncing her killer. This is truly a thrilling story written in a fascinating period of history. One can almost feel the dankness of the constant fog that enveloped London at that time. The muted sounds and smells of the city come alive through Rizzolo's words. Life was very hard in those days - and this is made graphically evident as the story unfolds.

The very real characters in The Rose in the Wheel could be people that we know today, given the difference in centuries. John Chase is a sympathetic person with a strong sense of duty, but also with an understanding of the vagaries of human nature. Penelope Wolfe goes that one step further than would be expected of her. She's a woman to admire and respect, but with her own human frailties.

The St. Catharine Society that features strongly in the plot is fictional but could have been real, considering that the desire of those more fortunate - whatever their reasons - to help others not so fortunate has existed throughout history. The Rose in the Wheel is an exciting tale that keeps the suspense going right through the last pages. I was sorry to finish this engrossing book and look forward to a return of John Chase and Penelope Wolfe.

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