Itís always a pleasure to return to the pages of a beloved series. A Crimson Warning is yet another of Alexander's luxurious period dramas that undertakes a rigorous analysis of London society in the 1890s. In pages that converge smoothly and brilliantly, this terrifically accomplished story flaunts the sharply satirical anatomy of Britain's social class system at a crucial time of change.
Central to the story is Emily and Colinís ongoing marriage, a partnership driven by their mutual passion. As the novel opens,
they are dancing the night away at a Mayfair ball, the air thick with the oil of too many perfumes. The self-absorbed guests are completely oblivious of any outside political reality, other than satisfying their personal agendas and closeted obsessions.
As political gossip and society rumors float around Emily, Colin is swiftly called away on urgent business in Southwark. One of the most trusted and discreet agents of the crown, Colinís investigative skills are indeed challenged when heís enlisted to solve the death of businessman Michael Dillman, who was found burned to death in his dockside warehouse.
Dillmanís murder proves that not everything in London is gaiety and balls. Due to be married next week to lovely Cordelia Dalton, his death throws London into knots of paranoia and terror. No one is better suited to handle the drama than Colin and Emily, violent death no stranger to either of them.
Still, the couple face their toughest case yet when the privileged houses of London are discovered blighted with large swaths of dark red paint.
As Colin and Emily work to solve the crime, Alexander unfurls her usual scenario with confidence and panache. There
are plenty of eccentric supporting characters: handsome Mr. Foster, who quotes Byron with much finesse, and eccentric Lady Glover, whose carriage is pulled by her pet zebras. The drama divides between the Match factories of the poor and the rich who assemble in their gilded drawing rooms, waited on by their personal maids and valets.
While Colin pursues his investigation on his own terms, Emilyís growing concern that her husband is hiding something that has nothing to do with Crown secrets is overshadowed by Winifred Harrisís warnings that Emily should be very careful how she chooses how to occupy herself. Emily is made all too aware that she lives in a society that values discretion above all else.
From the bowels of the British Museum to the violent collusions of deaf factory workers to accusations of black magic, there
are more death and missing persons than Colin and Emily can handle, the case proving to be ever more frustrating. When Emily decides to act on her own, she follows the evidence, her search exposing allegations of fraud along with a deep, dark desire for revenge.
Caught in a web of perilous secrets, Emily's marriage proves to be a delicate balance. Even when she outwits her enemies, Colin is always by her side, proving once again that he
is her savior and one great love in Alexander's entertaining and action-packed tale.