St. Martin's, Sep 2003, 24.95, 342 pp.
In 1852 London, Falcon reporter Edmund Whitty dubs William Ryan, the prostitute killer, Chokee Bill. Most of the fallen females are pleased to learn the police caught Chokee Bill because it makes it safe to offer their bodies to the West End wealthy aristocrats.
Needing money as usual, Whitty accepts a deal to partner with crime storywriter and seller Henry Owler who, on his own, failed to gain an interview with Chokee Bill. Edmund meets Ryan and soon wonders if the police arrested the wrong man. If he is right, Edmund realizes that the real murderer might be observing him, Owler, and his new partner's daughter especially as the journalist tours London in search of clues. If true, this serial killer will never allow anyone to point the finger.
Though quite similar to other serial killer tales especially those involving the Ripper, readers will enjoy this terse Victorian investigative novel. The story line provides insight into the era and includes a taste of London and a deep look at the social classes and a myopic justice system. With their flaws, obvious intelligence and moral consciences, Whitty and Owler are fine lead sleuths. They are reminiscent of Holmes and Watson so that readers of nineteenth century mysteries will appreciate this solid, novel.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner