By B.K. Duncan
Publication Date: December 12, 2017
Synopsis from Publisher:
It is March 1920 and May Keaps, the Poplar Coroner's Officer, has never failed to provide a jury with sufficient evidence to arrive at a just verdict. And 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 courtroom 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 and the position should be given to one of the soldiers back from the First World War. Even May begins to wonder if that shouldn't be the case when the discovery of a young man's body in a Limehouse alley plunges her into an underworld of opium dens, illegal gambling, drug dealers' turf wars, the protection rackets of the notorious Bow Kum Tong, and murder. As her investigations draw her into deeper 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 slab.
Today is my turn to host the Blog Blitz for this fascinating book. Thanks to Sarah Hardy and Bloodhound Books for the chance to participate.
If you are lucky, you can sometimes find a book that transports you to a time and place. The author writes a story so vivid that you can clearly see the characters and their surroundings. That has been my experience with B.K. Duncan. Foul Trade is a lively, stimulating, and compelling story of a woman in a man’s world, who is brave, unstoppable, and way ahead of her time.
At age 20, May Keaps has the very unlikely position as the coroner’s officer in the Poplar Coroner’s office. Well aware of the obstacles and the doubters she faces in her job, May is determined to do her best and not be deterred from finding the truth. When the body of a young man is found in an alley, May conducts an investigation into his death. During the investigation May finds herself in the cross hairs of some very dangerous people. Despite these dangers she is determined to find the truth and get justice for the young man and his family.
The main character, May is an extraordinary person. Not only because she is doing what most consider to be “man’s job”, but because she is not bothered by what people think about her. May is aware of these thoughts but it does not change how she conducts herself. She is professional and focused. May is also very sensitive and mindful of families she has to deal with while doing her job. Her compassion also drives her to do the right thing even though this sometimes puts not only her job in peril but her life in some instances.
Duncan’s writing allows the reader to feel fully immersed in the story. Duncan uses phrases and words that can only be used when describing things and places in the 1920’s. While I had to look up most of these phrases I did not mind at all. This made the story feel more truthful and paid tribute to a period of time when we did not have all the conveniences we have today. The descriptions of sounds and smells further allow the reader to be drawn into the story.
I found Foul Trade to be intriguing and entertaining. The pacing of the story was slower but did not take away from the story. The pacing allowed time for details and information to be shared that were pertinent to the story. The central mystery was compelling but would not have been as interesting without the slower pacing. Foul Trade is not my usual type of crime fiction read but I am very curious to see what the future holds for May.
**Thanks to Bloodhound Books for my review copy**
Murder and Moore Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
FOLLOW THE BLOG BLITZ
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.