Central London, 1894 a rumour begins to rumble the streets of London that the bubonic plague is claiming victims for a second time. Russell’s eighth title in the Inspector Box series reads like a small screen drama. Inspector Box is called in by the head of Secret Intelligence, Colonel Sir Adrian Kerhsaw to investigate Dr Landru, a seemingly good Samaritan to the local poor community. Assuming all is not what it seems Inspector Box is informed of an evil plot that Landru is deliberately spreading the bubonic plague in an attempt to destroy the reigning houses of Europe.
Fearing a revolt from the poor over concern that the high society is willing to risk death by the plague again, the government attempts to speak to them. A brilliantly written scene unfolds amidst the cobbled, winding streets of poverty-stricken London.
When the action takes them out of London the chase is set for Inspector Box and his colleagues to catch Dr Landru and his team of criminals as they make their journey up to Balmoral estate with a target to hit. As identities unravel, the names of multiple fake identities tumble on to the page and it becomes a complex game of who’s who. The pace of the book quickens as the plot thickens and danger follows but it is significantly rushed in the last couple of chapters. Unfortunately it reads as if the end has been written in haste and the quality that reads through the rest of the book lacks.
The dialogue between characters is sharp and formalities reflect well of the period written. Substantial description lacks in parts but the simplistic quality with which Russell writes suits the complexity of the plot. The end is not an easily predictable outcome but this could be owed to the big plot jumps between scenes. The plot basis of the bubonic plague is a refreshing idea to the crime and thriller genre but throughout the book it felt as though you were waiting for that extra push to make the book one step better.