REVIEW: In the Family Way by Sheri Cobb South
With a beautiful and clever wife, a growing investigative business, and a baby due any day, former Bow Street Runner John Pickett finally has a respectable life far removed from his beginnings as a juvenile pickpocket in the rookeries of St. Giles. Then his father returns from transportation to Botany Bay, and Pickett’s hard-won respectability threatens to collapse like a house of cards. When a person from his mother’s shadowy past surfaces, followed less than twenty-four hours later by the discovery of “Gentleman” Jack Pickett’s body in a back alley in Limehouse, Pickett finds himself juggling the dual obligations of settling his father’s tangled affairs, and discovering the identity of the man—or woman—who decided to settle Gentleman Jack permanently.
Dear Ms. Cobb South,
At last, at last! Book twelve of the John Picket murder mystery series has arrived. Readers have watched as John met and saved Julia from the gallows after the murder of her husband. We’ve followed their unlikely romantic relationship as a Bow Street Runner and a former Viscountess attempt to follow society’s conventions only to discover that they can’t. A mésalliance marriage? An unknown relation? A pregnancy that Just. Won’t. End. All this and more we’ve seen in this series but in this book you’ve tossed in some twists and turns I never saw coming. And yet, the clues were there which just tickles me when I think back on them.
Well John was startled when he was forcibly brought to the house of someone he had no knowledge of but who – black-hearted scoundrel! – had paid John no attention until he had need of him. Then on the heels of that, John’s transported father Gentleman Jack Pickett arrived back in London after ten years in Botany Bay. Both John and I were initially wary and yet also straining for more information about Jack and John’s mother Lydia’s early life. Then poor John had to set aside any plans for trying to further develop his fledgling private investigation business to juggle a murder inquiry and also worry about The Blessed Event.
I’ll admit I was gobsmacked at the identity of the person John encountered in that opening scene and also appreciated that you included doubt as to whether or not that person’s plans could actually come to fruition. I also totally agreed with John’s thoughts and reactions. Fie on that person! I could also feel John’s torn emotions as he distrusted his long absent father but also yearned to discover what only Jack could tell him about his mother and the past. John showed personal character growth in the face of acknowledging that perhaps he didn’t know his father as well as he thought he did.
Julia’s delicate sense of what John needed in terms of support and advice showed her unerring good sense and love for her husband. She put her finger on the pulse of the most important issue time after time all while basically trapped in their Curzon Street townhouse waiting for Baby Pickett to arrive. Bonus points for her care and concern about John’s young half-brother who was also facing emotional upheavals.
The murder mystery was interesting with enough clues and red herrings to keep John busy while allowing the inclusion of plenty of Regency era details to paint a picture of the various places and people John encountered in his search for who murdered his father and why. I wondered how Gentleman Jack would have felt about who ended up assisting John in that quest.
Now that Baby Pickett has arrived, will the series continue? There are a few promising threads that haven’t been tied up yet. And yes, I did notice John’s reference to a favorite character of mine from different series. Or perhaps another Bow Street Runner will step forward into the hero’s role? I look forward to seeing what will come next. B+