|Midnight Pleasures With a Scoundrel is the story of James Swindler, once a street urchin/pickpocket and now the best detective Scotland Yard has to offer. Readers familiar with Heath’s latest books will recognize James, as he’s spent the past few novels in love with his old friend Frannie, who is now a duchess. Old habits die easily in this case, as within the first couple of chapters, James is absolutely besotted with a new woman.
Eleanor Watkins has come to London from her quiet seaside village to avenge the death of her twin sister, who was ruined by one Lord Rockberry. Eleanor’s plan is to follow him around London, dreaming of the moment when she can stab him to death. When we first meet her, Eleanor is in an unsavory public garden, alone, at night, and of course is accosted by several men who think she’s a prostitute. She’s rescued by James Swindler, who escorts her back to her lodging house.
Lord Rockberry, uneasy and half-convinced he’s seeing a ghost, has already come to Scotland Yard and asked for help in discovering who the mysterious woman is that’s following him around. So Eleanor has been following Rockberry, and now James is following Eleanor. He wants to find out what her plan is, plus, he’s mesmerized with her from the start, with her “flawless skin” and “hair of pale moonlight,” etc. (Frannie who? And why is the woman on the cover a redhead?)
Eleanor and James start to spend time together, and as they take walks and carriage rides, they begin to develop a friendship. This is amiable, if not red-hot, though I confess my mind wandered more than once. “Two nice people starting a romance” only lasts for so long. Then Rockberry turns up dead, finally stabbed to death, and the author throws readers a huge curveball. I sure didn’t see it coming, and I can’t reveal it, but from that point the story shifts to the countryside and James has to decide whom to trust.
Midnight Pleasures With a Scoundrel is a nice wrap-up to this series. James is a decent sort, though his quick recovery from years of love for Frannie felt convenient. He really was a street urchin, and has a painful past which is detailed with a great deal of poignancy. Kudos to the author for keeping him in character here – he doesn’t end up an Earl or some such at the end of the story. I liked him a lot.
Eleanor turns out to be not quite what she seems, but she’s enjoyable. The twist in the story actually improves her, as initially she came across as rather dimwitted - wandering London alone at night with only a dagger in her reticule? – but after the plot swerve, she is fleshed out into someone more intelligent, thank goodness.
The second half of the story is taken up with discovering who killed Lord Rockberry, and who else might have been involved in his nefarious schemes. It dragged a bit, and the author kept the cast tied up in the country for too long, but the end was satisfying.
All in all, Midnight Pleasures With a Scoundrel was an enjoyable, if not memorable, read. Heath fans will be pleased with this latest effort.