Reeve, Alex. “Half Moon Street, (Leo Stanhope #1)”, Felony & Mayhem, 2019.
A Literary Surprise
As most of you can imagine, I get plenty of books every week but very few make me sit up and take notice. Now that does not mean that there is no good writing out there because there is and, of course, I have my own criteria for what will be great literature and I am as often wrong as I am right on this. Just imagine how boring it would be if we all liked the same thing. Even with that, I have a feeling that we will keep hearing about Alex Reeve.
I am generally not much of a mystery reader and for me to like a mystery is difficult. But then there is Alex Reeve who pulled me in on the first page and kept me going long after I finished the book. Set in 1880, we meet Leo Stanhope, a guy with great dreams and empty pockets. His dreams include setting up house with Maria, his prostitute girlfriend and he dreams of getting of London and as far away from dead bodies as possible. Leo works at the morgue where he confronts blood and stink every day. He also dreams of a world
Like half the young men in London, Leo Stanhope is rich in dreams but poor of pocket. He dreams of making a home with Maria, the prostitute he loves. He dreams of a life far from the blood and stink of the morgue where he works. And he dreams of a world where no one cares about gender. You see, Leo has a secret that can lock him away in prison for life if he is not killed before that. However, Maria was killed instead, and Leo is the prime suspect. He is determined and desperate to clear his name and find the murderer but to do so, he is forced to make important sacrifices— his books, his job, his home.
Leo was born Charlotte, but he knew he was meant to be a man despite his body saying otherwise. He ran away when he was just 15 and has lived as Leo since that day. Very few people knew about his original identity.
Now with Maria dead and Leo accused of her murder, he lost the woman he loves, and now could lose his freedom and, ultimately, his life.
Alex Reeve is an amazing writer especially when we consider that he had create an atmosphere, draw characters and a plot that all work together.
It did not take long for Leo to understand that he barely knew Maria and her funeral gives Leo an opportunity to see and meet others from her life, including the brothel owner, a man who claims family connections with the powerful Bentinck family and his bookkeeper, Miss Nancy Gainsford. Before long, Leo is arrested as the main suspect for Maria’s murder by the police, but he is released after behind the scenes pressure is put on them. As Leo meets more and more people who knew Maria, he feels betrayed, begins to learn about human trafficking, and the misery and horror of it. The mystery goes on but I want to leave that I can’t slip and give something away. It is important that we see Leo’s vulnerability and how he has to live with the risks and dangers of being transgender in unenlightened times. He is forced to reinforce a self-protective barrier between himself and the world. There is a lot of brutality, abuse and rape in the novel.
Reeve wonderfully captures the atmosphere of the times and I became so involved in reading that before I realized it, the sun rose and I was sitting in the same place I sat twelve hours earlier. The book was on my lap, closed but the story remained fresh in my mind and o it still is today. I must admit that I fell in love with Leo a bit and the good news is that he will be back in a series of books beginning in the fall of 2020.