Kitty Peck and the Parliament of Shadows by Kate Griffin: A brilliant last curtain call from an author with her feet planted firmly in the past - book review -

Kitty Peck and the Parliament of Shadows
Kitty Peck and the Parliament of Shadows
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A grisly murder in one of her own ‘palaces’ isn’t the only dark shadow hanging over the life of Kitty Peck, owner of a business ‘empire’ and darling of the East End’s music halls.

A grisly murder in one of her own ‘palaces’ isn’t the only dark shadow hanging over the life of Kitty Peck, owner of a business ‘empire’ and darling of the East End’s music halls.

With a powerful and brutal cartel on her tail, and a rabid, ranting preacher determined to rain fire and brimstone on Kitty and all she holds dear, the settled future she longs for is looking decidedly perilous.

Welcome back to late Victorian England, a place of penetrating fog, ferocious villains, foul deeds and filth, and one that has been brought to vivid, visceral life in a gripping and atmospheric historical crime series by Kate Griffin.

Griffin was raised on her grandmother’s tales of London’s Limehouse in the 1890s, a tough suburb where Jack the Ripper had stalked the streets just a decade earlier, so it’s little wonder that she has been seduced by this area’s dark mysteries, and the fourth and final book in her gritty but exhilarating debut series returns to the murkiest and most malignant corners of the East End.

And no business could be more disreputable than the Paradise, the sprawling empire on the banks of the Thames left to teenager Kitty by her grandmother, Lady Ginger, a fearless, ferocious woman who turned out to be one of the East End’s Barons, an unscrupulous group of powerful people hooked up to ‘every foul trade and noxious game’ in the city.

In Kitty’s last performance, we find the young woman known as the Limehouse Linnet disillusioned with her grand schemes to make her three music halls ‘a cleaner place for the poor types who came with the dirty trades.’

She had thought she would be able to run her grandmother’s criminal empire her own way. What Kitty didn’t know was that her grandmother had also left her violently entwined with the Barons, a coterie of unsavoury characters in high places who will stop at nothing to gain power, and who have carried out a string of murders to frighten Kitty.

Spurred on by her friends and newspaper reporter Sam Collins, the man she loves, Kitty is still determined to do away with the dark underbelly of Paradise and to transform her music halls into the jewels of Limehouse.

But as she begins her final assault on the evil Barons, a new threat appears in the form of the Reverend William Auchlyne-Doune, an eerily charismatic preacher on a crusade against ‘wickedness and vice’ and with his sights set on Kitty.

Can she save Paradise from destruction, without losing any more of the people she loves?

Griffin’s hard-hitting gothic mysteries are brimming with breathtaking historical detail, and are the nearest a contemporary audience could get not just to the squalor and depravity of the city’s poorest quarters but to the people who lived there and plied their often dubious trades.

And this terrific series signs off in fine form as Kitty, with her razor-sharp brain and wits, street-wise common sense and extraordinary courage battles to keep one step ahead of those who would willingly see her dead.

The cruel, dangerous and unforgiving world Kitty inhabits is evoked with thrilling authenticity and the richest period detail as her last offensive against the terrifying foes seeking to shut down her empire springs to life in an all-action, high-octane adventure.

A brilliant last curtain call from an author with her feet planted firmly in the past…

(Faber & Faber, paperback, £8.99)