London, 1863: prostitutes in the Waterloo area are turning up dead, their sexual organs mutilated and removed. When another girl goes missing, fears grow that the killer may have claimed their latest victim.
The police are at a loss and so it falls to courtesan and professional detective, Heloise Chancey, to investigate.
With the assistance of her trusty Chinese maid, Amah Li Leen, Heloise inches closer to the truth. But when Amah is implicated in the brutal plot, Heloise must reconsider who she can trust, before the killer strikes again.
What I thought
I loved this book, everything about it. I’m actually feeling sad to have finished it, but then I remember it’s part of a series–yay! I simply haven’t had enough of Heloise Chancey.
So where to begin? Let’s talk setting first. M. J. Tjia absolutely brought Victorian London to life, seedy parts and all. Between the description of her surroundings and the variety of true-to-life characters we meet, I loved the feeling of authenticity and of being transported somewhere while I read.
As for the crime-solving, murder mystery aspect–folks, this story was gruesome. In lieu of listing every trigger warning in the books, let me simply advise you to tread lightly here. There were parts that were extremely difficult for even me to read, and that’s saying something. As for the mystery, although the reveal did feel slightly abrupt, it was no less horrifying. And kudos to the author–I never saw it coming.
My favorite part of this book, hands down, was Heloise. She was strong, independent, and witty. She was confident, almost to the point of being arrogant, and she embraced (and was proud of) her sexuality and her femininity. And of course I loved her feminist attitude. I couldn’t help but rage with her over the plight of sex workers, and women in general, of the time. For as gruesome and disheartening as this story could be, I couldn’t help but admire Heloise because she was also funny and raunchy and sexy and lively and kind. She was the kind of character who felt like a friend.
Despite all of my rambling, suffice it to say–I loved this book and truly can’t wait to read the next one. This book was so much more than the run-of-the-mill cozy mystery I was expecting. As I mentioned, this book won’t be for everyone–you can feel free to message me with any questions. But if you’re comfortable, I wholeheartedly think you should give it a try. I promise: you haven’t met a character before quite like Heloise!