Name: The House on Half Moon Street
Author: Alex Reeve
Number of Pages: 368 (Hardback)
Published: May 3rd 2018 by Raven Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery, Crime
Everyone has a secret… Only some lead to murder.
Leo Stanhope. Assistant to a London coroner; in love with Maria; and hiding a very big secret.
For Leo was born Charlotte, but knowing he was meant to be a man – despite the evidence of his body – he fled his family home at just fifteen, and has been living as Leo ever since: his original identity known only to a few trusted people.
But then Maria is found dead and Leo is accused of her murder. Desperate to find her killer and under suspicion from all those around him, he stands to lose not just the woman he loves, but his freedom and, ultimately, his life.
A wonderfully atmospheric debut, rich in character and setting, in The House on Half Moon Street Alex Reeve has created a world that crime readers will want to return to again and again. – from Goodreads
The House on Half Moon Street has a great central character in Leo Stanhope. Leo is a man in his heart and soul, but he was born Charlotte Pritchard, and grew up as a reverend’s daughter. Tired of living a lie, Leo leaves home, conceals his physical form by way of some rather painful sounding cilice bindings, and lives his true life, finding lodgings in London and a job as a coroner’s assistant.
Leo aspired to a genuine love with Maria, a prostitute he regularly visited. For Leo at least, their arrangement had developed into genuine love and affection. I really wanted Leo to be happy, to have his dream of a life and home shared with Maria, and to have that shared afternoon at the theatre which he so looked forward to.
But then Maria turns up on the slab at the mortuary where Leo works, and suddenly everything he believed he knew is called into question.
For there may have been more to Maria, and isn’t it strange that Maria is actually the second body to turn up possibly linked to James Bentinck, the owner of the brothel where Maria worked?
Unhappy that the police are failing to find Maria’s killer, (Leo himself is under suspicion at first), Leo sets out to find out the truth.
The search takes him into the darkest parts of society, into the realms of domestic abuse, prostitution, abortionists and kidnappers. If that sounds a little grim, there’s great balance in that along the way Leo has friends and allies.
I enjoyed the domestic scenes in the pharmacy where Leo lodges with Alfie and his young daughter Constance, who quizzes Leo about various pharmacists’ offerings and what they are used to treat, winning herself tea and cake by outwitting Leo on several occasions.
There are villains who will stop at nothing to further their own ends, which makes them dangerous, and Leo finds himself in peril more than once.
The House on Half Moon Street is the first novel featuring Leo Stanhope. It is an atmospheric, well plotted mystery tale and captures Victorian London really well. Leo is a hero you really root for, a genuinely decent soul in a world that is sometimes quite dark. The cast of secondary characters adds colour, and I hope some of them appear in any future novels, which I will certainly look out for.