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by Hannah March
Penguin, May 2004
272 pages
ISBN: 045121188X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Robert Fairfax has a knack at solving crimes, but he tries to make a living as a tutor. He is hired by Samuel Appleton to teach his two younger sons. Upon Fairfax's arrival, he finds that Appleton has a different job for him in mind. Appleton wants his son-in-law, Lord Hugh Mortlock, investigated. He has been hearing rumors about his daughter's possible infidelity and the trouble Mortlock has been creating with his gambling and own affairs.

Fairfax is somewhat troubled by this request simply because digging into private affairs frequently opens wounds, but agrees due to his need for a job. After spending the night following Mortlock through London's gambling dens, Fairfax meets Lady Charlotte Mortlock for a musical audience. While Fairfax is attending this event, Lord Mortlock is murdered. The obvious suspect is a missing slave, but Fairfax feels that he is in fact innocent. He fears that the murderer might be someone closer to home. Fairfax must solve this murder before an innocent man is killed.

A DISTINCTION OF BLOOD captures the time period - Georgian London - and brings this historical period to life. March has the ability to draw forth ideas and social mores in a manner such that they seem familiar. The use of Dr Nimier, who is something of a quack doctor, is a perfect example of this concept. The practice of medicine was still undergoing numerous changes during this period and quacks still abounded.

The situation and events of A DISTINCTION OF BLOOD are specific to the time period. The amusements of the characters are certainly reminiscent of a previous time, as is the attention to dress and formal behaviors. However, the actions of the characters are timeless. For example, Samuel Appleton is very concerned about his family's reputation and his daughter's infidelity. This type of concern is something that is just as common now as then. In addition, the martial concerns of the Mortlocks are not something that is limited to a previous time period or only the rich. The problems and concerns at the heart of this book are universal.

A DISTINCTION OF BLOOD is the third book featuring Robert Fairfax.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, May 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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