The Cannonball has given me many things this year (Ready Player One, The Fault in Our Stars, Dreamers of the Day) but I think introducing me to the character of Julian Kestrel and his mysteries is perhaps my favorite. I know that I haven’t rated the first book, Cut to the Quick, or this one, A Broken Vessel, with as many stars as the previous three but I simply adore the characters Kate Ross created in a way that I did not feel in the other Cannonball finds. I love the characters of Julian, Dipper, and Dr. MacGregor enough that I can overlook my displeasure at spending so much time with Dipper’s sister, Sally.
Sally Stokes is a prostitute and thief who pickpockets her johns. We soon find out she is also Dipper’s younger sister who he has not seen in years. Much of A Broken Vessel is spent with Sally as the reader views the events through Sally’s eyes. Sally’s adventure starts in London’s Haymarket district, where she picks up three men in turn and nicknames them Bristles, Blue Eyes, and Blinkers. From each Sally steals a handkerchief – and from one she mistakenly steals a letter which contains an urgent plea for help. It isn’t until she runs into her brother after being roughed up by Blinkers that Sally discovers the letter, and who better to help her unravel the mystery of the girl in need of help than one Julian Kestrel.
Julian, Dipper, and Sally (with an assist by Dr. MacGregor) come up with a plan to discover the identity of the girl in question and find out that she has died. Julian is convinced it was murder, and upon getting the backing of a magistrate, sets about to prove it. Enter Sally, who as a lady – and one of ill repute – she is particularly suited to investigate the circumstances of the girl’s death in a reform house. Julian and Dipper do their own sleuthing, turning up a human trafficking circuit and ultimately the person responsible for the murder.
This one was not perfect, mainly because while I acknowledge that Kate Ross gets the slang and other language right, it felt like it got in the way of the storytelling. Much of the language is dead to the American reader and at times it felt like I spent more times deducing what Sally was saying than what it meant for the story overall. Still a worthy read and I have Whom The Gods Love lined up to read in the next few weeks. I will be sad to end the Kestrel mysteries, and I know that I won’t be able to hold off finishing the fourth later this year.