The prologue of Harrison’s superior fourth Gaslight mystery teaming novelists Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens (after 2021’s Summer of Secrets), a melancholy letter written by Collins on his deathbed in 1889, sets the stage for flashbacks to 1859.
In the wake of the Great Stink of 1858, during which an overwhelmed London sewer system combined with a heat wave to create a persistent foul odour in the metropolis, civil engineer Joseph Bazalgette, a friend of Dickens, is tasked with addressing the problem.
But murder interferes, as Collins relates in his letter. During an exhibition of Bazalgette’s proposed solution at a gathering attended by notables who include MP Benjamin Disraeli, a man, unidentified in the prologue, is killed in an explosion that sends metal fragments flying.
Collins and Dickens, present at the gathering, come to believe the death was no accident and partner up to seek a murderer.
Amid clever plot twists, Harrison maintains suspense as the action builds up to the fatal explosion, leaving readers in suspense as to who is killed and why.
Collins and Dickens subsequently investigate.
Victorian whodunits don’t get much better than this.