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The Hellfire Conspiracy

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Hellfire Conspiracy (2007) Will Thomas

Set in London in 1885.

Barker and Llewellyn are pulled into a case possibly involving the white slave trade–the sale of girls into prostitution.

I’d seen women in the East End, pursuing their occupation boldly in the light of day, but it had never occurred to me that they might not have come to the work willingly or were below the legal age of consent, which was thirteen years.

A man comes into their office demanding they find his twelve-year-old-daughter, who has disappeared, presumably kidnapped.

“I questioned Hypatia and all the staff. Then I spent an hour riding about the area. After that, I thought to tell Scotland Yard, so I rode back here. A fine lot of good that did me. They claimed Gwendolyn must be missing for twenty-four hours before they would lift a finger! Damned incompetence!”

“Their hands are tied by regulations, Major. You must not blame them.

It’s always horrifying to be reminded how children lived and were treated in the past–even if that past was just over 120 years ago.

“I have been hired to find a child’s murderer. I will associate with whomever helps me find him.”

The man got a tight smile on his face. “You have no clue what this is about, do you?”

“Enlighten me,” Barker murmured.

“Stead has vowed to see that the age of consent is raised from thirteen to sixteen. I represent a consortium of men who will not allow that to occur.”

Hell, it’s horrifying to see how adults were treated, even by those supposedly looking out for them.

“(T)here are socialists and then there are socialists. I am a Christian socialist. I believe it is our duty when the churches have been unable to help and some people have fallen through the cracks to step in and save them. It is the only alternative to the workhouse.”

Interestingly, we also get some of Baker’s social beliefs, which themselves (to me) are horrifying. Yet somehow drop right into today’s political climate.

“You do not approve of socialism? If it makes any difference, I believe the term Miss Hill used was ‘Christian socialist.’”

“Christian socialist,” Barker muttered. “That is even worse.”

“What is the difference, pray, in the good works you do in the Tabernacle and the work of the Christian socialist?”

“It starts with their entire worldview, lad. They believe that man is basically good, and that, given the proper nudge by such crusading women, they can turn the earth into a utopia and usher in the millennium.”

“And you believe—”

“That man, from the time he is born is at heart selfish and any attempt at utopia shall fail miserably. Heaven shall not be attained on earth.”

Ugh.

The mystery is not bad, but the kidnapping, rape, and murder of children is a hard thing to read. (The rape occurs off the page, but you still know it happens.) This is not my favorite of these books.

Publisher: Touchstone

Categories: British, Historical, Mystery, Private Eye, Re-Read     Comments (0)    



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