Twenty-One Days by Anne Perry (Historical Mystery Novel, April 2018).
Already a best-selling author for her series of Victorian-era books featuring master-spy agency guy Thomas Pitt and his mystery-solving wife Charlotte, Anne Perry jumps forward to 1910 to begin a new series built around their son, Daniel. He’s a 25-year-old London barrister who, to start the book off, comes up with a last-minute bit of forensic evidence to save his first-ever client, Roman Blackwell, from an undeserved murder conviction. So far, so good.
But before he can rest on his laurels, he’s thrust into a new case–ordered by his firm’s head man to serve as a sub for an injured colleague as junior council in defending a super-arrogant biographical muckraker in what seems an open-and-shut case of spousal murder. The lead lawyer is the firm’s top litigator, but even so it seems the case is a definite loser–in large part because the client, Russell Graves, is uncooperative and paranoid.
Graves is convicted and sentenced to die in 21 days. Thereby the book’s title: A bewildered and conflicted Daniel has that long to prove who actually committed the especially brutal killing and then disfigured the corpse with fire. If not, Graves will swing from a noose–and the Daniel’s new boss (who owes the Graves family a debt of honor) will be serious displeased.
A fair enough reason for him to go all-out in playing detective, right? Only Daniel (and Kitterridge, the senior lawyer on the case) aren’t even sure Graves is innocent. Worse, the investigation soon reveals the man’s latest scandal-mongering work-in-progress is all about alleged corruption with England’s Special Branch (the secret intelligence service Daniel’s father currently heads). Will saving Graves bring about disgrace and dishonor for Daniel’s beloved and admired Dad?
It’s a tangled puzzle that Daniel and a few allies work to resolve, with red herrings aplenty and increasingly wild twists. Need I to assure loyal readers that, while Daniel has to face up to the ambiguous ethical choices governmental spy work demands, Thomas emerges from it all with his reputation unsullied?
Graves is cleared, but also gets what he deserves in a wild turn of events that has Daniel defending a surprising new client and securing his status as a bright new member of his respected firm.
You’ll have to read the book to find out the details, but I will say that Perry carries off the numerous twists of the plot in steady and capable fashion. She also provides plenty of period-specific atmosphere and detail, which shouldn’t be any surprise to readers of her previous series.