When the Devil Drives – Caro Peacock

14 December 2011

When intrepid lady detective Liberty Lane is approached by a two very different clients – a diffident young man from the Essex countryside with a missing fiancée that he doesn’t seem to know very much about and a cultured music loving gentleman who is keen to protect a beautiful but mysterious foreign countess from creating a scandal, she has no idea that what actually lies before her is a tangled web of murder, kidnapping, royal iniquity and state secrets.

I was hooked and held enthralled from the very first page by Caro Peacock’s lushly imagined, vivid and highly detailed depiction of London’s dark and dangerous streets in the early years of ‘Little Vicky’s’ long reign. As is so often the case with really good historical fiction, the setting was the star of the show and Liberty proved an excellent guide to the fascinating underbelly of the Victorian capital, where it seems that everyone and everything has a price.

The feisty, straight talking Liberty herself makes an excellent and immensely likeable heroine who is equally at home riding amongst the upper echelons of society in Hyde Park or wandering around the dark and dangerous streets of the docks.

The story itself was well realised and a lot of fun with a dash of romance, plenty of twists and turns and more than one genuine edge of seat moment as Liberty’s investigation progressed. If you are looking for a devious and deeply engrossing mystery set in Victorian London then this definitely won’t disappoint.

(Originally reviewed for the Historical Novel Society).