The Devil's Mask, By Christopher Wakling

Murder in the time of slavery

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Christopher Wakling's historical novel, set in post-abolition Bristol, takes on an interesting cross-over period when slavery had just been outlawed in Britain and driven underground.

His hero is a young lawyer, Inigo Bright, who suspects that his wealthy father may be involved in some illegal trading activities, and is asked to investigate customs and excise. One ship arouses suspicion, just as a labourer is charged with the murder of a woman who looks to have been a slave. Narrative tension is diluted though, because we hear it all from the point of view of an illegally trafficked slave, hidden from sight. We know more than Inigo does, until final family revelations spike our complacency. But, by then, it's really too late.