** advanced copy received via publisher **
It’s a pleasure to host a stop on the blog tour for Foul Trade by B.K. Duncan today! Many thanks to Sarah Hardy and Bloodhound Books! Read on to see what the book is all about.
Author : B.K. Duncan
Title : Foul Trade
Series : May Keeps #1
Pages : 372
Publisher : Bloodhound Books
Publication date : December 12, 2017
It is March 1920. May Keaps, the Poplar Coroner’s Officer, has never failed to provide a jury with sufficient evidence to arrive at a just verdict.
The poverty, drunken fights between visiting sailors, drug trafficking, and criminal gangs, haunting the shadows of the busiest docks in the world, mean that the Coroner sees more than its fair share of sudden and unnatural deaths.
May relishes the responsibility placed upon her but there are many who believe it’s an unsuitable job for a woman. Even May begins to wonder if that is the case when the discovery of a young man’s body, in a Limehouse alley, plunges her into an underworld of opium dens, gambling, turf wars, protection rackets and murder.
As her investigations draw her into danger, it becomes increasingly clear that whoever is responsible intends to avoid the hangman’s noose by arranging to have May laid out on one of her own mortuary slabs.
Two years after the events of the novella The Last Post, we meet up again with May Keaps. May is now 22 years old and working as the Coroner’s Officer in Poplar, East London. While many think this job isn’t suitable for a woman, May loves it and the responsibilities it gives her. But when a young man is found dead in an alley, May quickly finds herself involved in a murky criminal underworld full of drugs, gambling and murder. Meanwhile, she’s also taking care of her sister, Alice, and trying to deal with a past that has seen too much death.
Now, I must admit that it took me a while to get into this story. I felt it was a bit of a slow-burner, especially after reading the novella which packed quite a punch. May remains incredibly fierce and determined, even if her quest for truth and justice may land her in danger. Set in 1920’s Poplar, it seems danger is lurking around pretty much every corner as well. This isn’t exactly a thriving neighbourhood and being so near the docks, who knows what goods find their way into the area.
May’s boss is quite the judgmental character who makes up his mind about a possible inquest result way before any evidence has been presented to him. But May doesn’t work that way and together with James, a journalist, she will do whatever it takes to make sure the family of the victim finds closure. The investigation had me guessing until the end, utterly unable to figure out the culprit and not trusting anyone.
This is a well-written, complex and multi-layered mystery. I found it slightly dark and depressing and maybe also a little bit too long. However, the historical setting is really brought to life and works like a charm. It adds something truly special to the story. From the busy docks, to the markets, to the prostitutes and the theatre … It’s easy to find yourself completely immersed and imagine the sights and the sounds. May is a formidable main character and she’s surrounded by a cast of interesting characters like James and her best friend Sally, whom I adored. It’ll be interesting to see what’s in store for all of them. If you like your mysteries with a historical setting, you’ll find this one highly enjoyable!
Foul Trade is published today!
BK Duncan is the pen name Ruth Wade has adopted for the May Keaps series of historical crime novels.
Born on a steam railway and brought up on the South Coast of England, such beginnings were destined to leave BK Duncan with a love of vintage transport, crashing seas, and Art Deco architecture.
Following a career encompassing developmental learning and change-management consultancy she now combines producing her own work with lecturing part-time in creative writing in colleges and academies in Cambridge and Oxford. Her two great passions are longbow archery and the Argentine Tango. Sadly, she is not nearly as accomplished at either as she’d like.
BK Duncan also writes historical crime novels as Ruth Wade.