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by Fidelis Morgan
HarperCollins, February 2004
342 pages
ISBN: 000713424X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I've become rather wary of authors praising each other on the covers of their books, but Tess Gerritsen's description of FORTUNE'S SLAVE as 'A delicious rollicking romp of a mystery' is spot-on.

The fourth in the Restoration Comedy series featuring the crumbling Countess Ashby de la Zouche, her buxom maid Alpiew, and old friends Godfrey and Pigalle, is a real treat.

After her recent escapades in France, the Countess is back in London and for once she is in the money and it's making her nervous. How can she keep it safe from thieves? Are banks really secure, and what about the stocks the men are now trading in coffee shops? Her friends are reluctant to disclose what they do with their own money, so she sets out to investigate lock boxes and the banking options offered by a fledgling financial services industry.

The Countess and Alpiew determine to call upon the famously rich Sir Richard Dainty to ask his advice, and before they know it they are attending a public hanging with his friends, and are invited to Sir Richard's imminent wedding to his young ward. Within hours the groom has disappeared, the Countess's home is invaded by a stream of intruders, her money is taken, she is sent on a nefarious mission on pain of Alpiew's life, and a body is dumped in her outside privy.

What follows is a wonderful chaotic romp through Restoration London and its dangerous neighbour, Southwark, as our intrepid duo tries to work out what is going on and to save their own skins. This includes some inspired undercover work as the Countess forsakes her wig and poses as a eunuch.

There is a tremendous cast of characters, drawn from the aristocracy, financiers, women who shop, tradesmen, and outrageous criminals. They are all memorable. Restoration London is vividly described in all its glorious and gruesome detail.

Whilst I thought the humour in its predecessor, THE AMBITIOUS STEPMOTHER, was a little over-obvious in its bawdiness, here it is perfectly pitched for me. FORTUNE'S SLAVE is a very funny novel with a breathless pace and complex plot, great characters, and realistic locations. It is a delight to read: a real tour de force. Very highly recommended.

Reviewed by Bridget Bolton, March 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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