It is March 1920. May Keaps, the Poplar Coroner’s Officer, has never failed to provide a jury with sufficient evidence to arrive at a just verdict.
The poverty, drunken fights between visiting sailors, drug trafficking, and criminal gangs, haunting the shadows of the busiest docks in the world, mean that the Coroner sees more than its fair share of sudden and unnatural deaths.
May relishes the responsibility placed upon her but there are many who believe it’s an unsuitable job for a woman. Even May begins to wonder if that is the case when the discovery of a young man’s body, in a Limehouse alley, plunges her into an underworld of opium dens, gambling, turf wars, protection rackets and murder.
As her investigations draw her into danger, it becomes increasingly clear that whoever is responsible intends to avoid the hangman’s noose by arranging to have May laid out on one of her own mortuary slabs.
Firstly I would like to thank Bloodhound Books, BK Duncan and blog tour organiser Sarah Hardy for the ARC copy of this book in return for an honest review.
Having read the short story introduction to this book The Last Post, I was looking forward to spending more time in the company of the indomitable May Keaps. Holding down a job as a Coroner’s Officer at a time when such jobs were mainly the remit of men, she is a refreshing change from period stories that only feature men in such roles. As a character she is strong-minded, intelligent and very likeable and for me she makes this book the success it is. There are many other great characters who play strong supporting roles in the story. Not least the victim himself, whose back story is integral to the mystery at the heart of the book. We are given enough information to keep us addicted to the story and invested enough to hope May catches the killer.
As for the story itself, it’s full of plenty of drama that keep me turning the pages desperate to know that characters I was fond survived the drama that enveloped them. BK Duncan wrong footed me when it came to the main protagonist of the story, in fact she weaved in so many twists and turns that I was giddy at the end of the novel! The skill in which she evoked the horror of war in……is present in Foul Trade as well. The claustrophobic back streets of London, the bustling activity on the docks and the menacing atmosphere of the dung dens are all brought vividly to life. You feel that you’re walking those streets with May and can feel the mounting horror and violence that haunts her footsteps.
If you’re looking for a really good historical drama that will envelope you in the story, then Foul Trade should be your next read.
I am certainly looking forward to reading more of May Keaps adventures.
Foul Trade can be purchased from Amazon
BK Duncan is the pen name Ruth Wade has adopted for the May Keaps series of historical crime novels.
Born on a steam railway and brought up on the South Coast of England, such beginnings were destined to leave BK Duncan with a love of vintage transport, crashing seas, and Art Deco architecture.
Following a career encompassing developmental learning and change-management consultancy she now combines producing her own work with lecturing part-time in creative writing in colleges and academies in Cambridge and Oxford. Her two great passions are longbow archery and the Argentine Tango. Sadly, she is not nearly as accomplished at either as she’d like.
BK Duncan also writes historical crime novels as Ruth Wade.
The author can be followed on the following social media sites.