Well, this was different. And I mean that in a good way.
Georgina Clarke’s The Corpse Played Dead is set in Regency London and begins with notorious prostitute Lizzie Hardwick on the way to the theatre, dressed up in her finery, travelling the streets in company of her employer and to the jeers of the crowd — because Lizzie is a woman who (in a previous book in the series) sent a murderer to the gallows and he died cursing her. What a start!
This is the second in the Lizzie Hardwick series and I came to it without having read the first, but didn’t need to know the earlier story to become completely consumed by this one. Lizzie’s previous involvement in crime has brought her to the attention of the Bow Street Runners (the police). When strange and violent happenings begin to occur at the Garrick Theatre she’s persuaded to trade her trade (so to speak) for more honest employment as a seamstress at the theatre in order to find out who is prepared to commit murder to ruin theatre manager and impresario David Garrick — and why.
This was a terrific story, and Lizzie is a terrific lead. The supporting characters are all terrific, too (I particularly enjoyed the public love-ins and private bitching that characterised both Lizzie’s relationship with her co-workers and those of the actors). And Lizzie’s slow-burn relationship with the handsome, austere and disapproving law officer Will Davenport is one that’s captured me early on and is, I hope, going to keep me engaged for some time yet.
This is by no means the first book of this period that I’ve read with a theatrical setting, but nevertheless I liked the original take on the more traditional regency novel, with the heroine a straight-up honest and open prostitute rather than a slandered and maligned woman of better quality. It meant that her relationship with Will is problematic and, I think, her feelings about herself, too.
It was nicely written, beautifully set and a page-turner. What more could you ask?
Thanks to Netgalley and Canelo for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.