This story, #10 in the John Pickett mystery series, is not exactly a mystery. It is a crime story, but, since we know from the get-go who the baddies are and what their evil plans are, it's not exactly mysterious. What it is, though, is a great human interest tale. We delve more into the personal side of John's life and watch his uneasy return to his roots, which results in some disconcerting events in his life and some uncertainty on the reader's part about how exactly this will all impact his future.
At the beginning of the story, robbers fleeing the scene of their crime are almost stopped by the police, resulting in the death of the police officer involved and the discovery that one of the criminals is a young boy closely resembling John Pickett. Robert Maxwell, the Bow Street runner assigned to hunting down these criminals, former soldier and by-the-book investigator, suspects the boy is John's illegitimate son, never mind the fact that John would have had to father this boy when he was just a boy himself. John, of course, knows better. This must be a half brother his father left behind when sent off to Botany Bay.
Problem is that Runner Maxwell is hot on the trail of the two adults and the young boy, fully intending to throw the book at all of them when they are caught, which would result in either the hanging of all three or their being sent off to Australia. John cannot conceive of that fate for his own brother, even though it's a brother he was unaware he had until this moment.
So the story involves John and Maxwell working separately to find the criminals, Maxwell to apprehend all three and John with the hope of rescuing his brother to give him a respectable life in Mayfair with himself and Julia. But going back to the place of your youth, in this case the rookeries of St. Giles, can be a dangerous thing. Will John's right-wrong lines become blurred as he becomes more and more immersed in the environs of his criminal childhood?
There are some very touching moments in this story, regarding John and brother Kit's budding relationship, his longstanding relationship with Magistrate Colquhoun, and, of course, his new life as a happily-married man. Those are the best parts of the novel.
Some of John's actions in his desperation to save his brother seemed somewhat unreasoned and poorly thought out, or at least inefficient and ineffectual, to me. And he seemed to develop a bit of a martyr attitude at what the outcome would be, but the story still interested me quite a bit and much of it moved me. I've had a soft spot for John Pickett for years now. Not exactly a crush, more of a deep, grandmotherly affection.