REVIEW: Brother, Can You Spare a Crime?: Another John Pickett Mystery by Sheri Cobb South
When one of his colleagues witnesses a robbery in which one of the participants, a child, bears a striking resemblance to a certain Bow Street Runner, John Pickett realizes he has a young half-brother who has been “apprenticed” to a criminal gang. The brutal murder of the pursuing constable makes the crime far more serious than a simple robbery would be—and ten-year-old Kit is linked to the crime by the toy soldier he dropped while fleeing the scene.
In spite of his tender years, he will certainly hang unless Pickett can extricate him before fellow Bow Street Runner Maxwell solves the case. For the first time in his career, Pickett is obliged to work against one of his fellows, dogging Maxwell’s steps and trying to anticipate his next move in order to get to the boy first.
Pickett’s investigation will take him back to the rookeries of London, where his own childhood was spent. But can he return to his old haunts without being pulled back into his old way of life?
Dear Ms. Cobb South,
My goodness what a long way John Pickett and his beloved wife Julia have come in the short time they’ve known each other. From a Bow Street Runner investigating a murder and saving a beautiful woman to a happily married couple expecting Julia’s “pledge of affection.” Of course it hasn’t been smooth sailing by any means but they’re together and in love. Except, aw rats, John’s past is about to come calling and he might just not survive the visit.
The fact that he might have a half brother living in London – and picking pockets – doesn’t come as a surprise to John. His supervisor’s suggestion that he discover the whereabouts of this boy and snatch him away from the threat hanging over him as an accessory to a murder committed during a robbery is. John is … well, he doesn’t know the boy, isn’t exactly sure they’re related, and with Julia about to give birth he isn’t sure there’s a place for the child with them. But the more John investigates and must return to the slums from which he, himself, escaped, the more he changes his mind.
I liked the scenes of John and Julia in domestic bliss and how easily they can finish each other’s sentences, so to speak. It hasn’t been exactly easy and they’ve worked for their chance at happiness which has come at a social cost for Julia. Her love for John shows in her wish to help him with this case and in her (initially, to be honest, lukewarm) acceptance of John’s request to allow this unknown person into their lives.
The start of the story ties in with the events of the previous book and how afraid John now is for Julia and his growing family’s safety. He almost lost her once and he won’t let that happen again. Soon Julia, however, fears for his safety. In order to gather intelligence and try and stay one step ahead of his fellow Bow Street Runner, John has toreenter the hellhole slums in which he was born and raised and face his past in the person of the woman who tossed him out on the streets at age fourteen. That is only the beginning of the wrenching choices John has in store. How he manages to save his brother, stop a crime, and look to a hopefully safer future had me inhale most of the book in one afternoon.
Whither the Picketts now? I certainly hope that there are future books planned as Julia is still in an “interesting condition” and there is now young Kit to see to as John scans the newspapers each day and waits for a knock on their door. B+