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COLOR OF DEATH, THE
by Bruce Alexander
G. P.Putnam's Sons, November 2000
288 pages
$24.95
ISBN: 0399146482


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sir John Fielding, a blind London judge, and his assistant, Jeremy Proctor, become involved in trying to find out what and who is behind a series of robberies and murders that are plaguing London in 1772. Mansions of the rich are being stripped of all their valuables; an innocent man is shot and killed; a maid has her throat slashed. All this is accomplished in daylight. Admission into the homes is gained by trickery.

Jeremy Proctor, 17, is Sir John's "eyes", and after Sir John is shot by a mugger, Jeremy is delegated to interrogate the witnesses to the various robberies. Jeremy's search for information takes him to the mansions of the rich, the coffee houses, the Docks. He is quick witted and learns much about the robberies. All witnesses claim that the thieves were Africans (as they were called then). But Jeremy's association with several educated Africans lead him to believe that all is not as it appears to be. Sir John puts together all of Jeremy's bits of information, and they find that there is more behind the robberies than they thought.

This is a historical mystery. I like historical mysteries when the period is depicted accurately. Bruce Alexander has conveyed the feeling of this 18th century London. You can feel the atmosphere, even the smells of the streets, the coffee houses, the docks, the mansions of the wealthy.

The story is narrated by Jeremy, Sir John's quickwitted "eyes"' The book is written (as narrated by Jeremy) in the style of the 18th century writers. Some readers may find it difficult to adjust to this different way of expression. I found this style to be most appropriate to the period of the book. It is well worth attempting the adjustment.

We meet some of the illustrious people of the time: Samuel Johnson (of Dictionary fame), David Garrick (producer and actor). Sir John is based on a real person. He was the brother of author, Henry Fielding. We learn much about the Bow Street Runners, the social ills of the period, the levels of society, the ambiguity of the question of slavery in England at the time.

There are moments of humor and wit.

This is the 7th novel in the Sir John Fielding series. From various references and allusions, the main characters have evolved and developed through the series. This book can stand alone but for more understanding and enjoyment I would recommend starting with the first, Blind Justice, and continue on your enjoyable way to number 7.

Reviewed by Barbara Buhrer, August 2001

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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