Poisoned Pen Press, June 2002, 24.95,496 pp.
In 1787 France, Colonel Paul de Saint-Martin, a provost of the royal highway patrol, is directed to find and arrest Captain Maurice Fitzroy for the rape and assault on a French noble woman. After making several inquiries he learns that his quarry has escaped to England and is residing in his cousin's home in Bath.
At the request of her host to teach how to read lips, sign and speak to the master's son, a deaf child, Anne Cartier (see MUTE WITNESS) temporarily resides at the same Combe Park home as Fitzroy. Anne and Paul are good friends on the verge of becoming even closer and she is only too happy to help to help Paul with his efforts to kidnap Fitzroy and bring him back to France. Their efforts are sidetracked when Anne's worst enemy is killed on the grounds of Combe Park. Paul, Anne and a Bow Street runner work together to find his killer, no easy task because the man had more enemies than a street dog has fleas.
Fans of Iain Pears rich historical mysteries will want to read BLACK GOLD, a work rich in period detail with characters that are unique to the era. Charles O'Brien is a gifted storyteller who writes about the aristocracy of the late eighteenth century from a commoner's point of view. The novel takes the moral high ground, which helps explain why the protagonists are so appealing.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner