In the latest book in the quirky Leo Stanhope Case series (shortlisted for the Crime Writers Awards Sapere Books Historical Dagger), Alex Reeve weaves social issues, identity and thrilling suspense into The Blood Flower, mainly through the characterisation of Leo and Rosie Sandhope, but also through Peregrine, Quinton and Sergeant Dorling. A romp that trails a stone considered to be a ruby (the ‘blood flower’), this crime novel explores a corrupt police force, unconventional relationships and seedy clubs.
It’s 1883 and Leo Stanhope, transgender journalist and amateur detective, together with wife Rosie have come to Portsmouth to visit Rosie’s sister but the holiday transpires to be work for Stanhope. While the sister expects them for dinner, two young people have been killed by the docks. Though initially wishing to leave it to the police, Leo notes that the detectives refuse to take the case seriously, dismissing the victims as ‘molly-lads’ and misfits. He has to step in. Once he notes the ‘blood flower’, the common thread in all of these murders, motive starts to appear and it becomes feasible to locate possible perpetrators.
A crime novel that superfluously describes the underground Portsmouth scene, it’s the last in the Leo Stanhope Case series. We traipse through with Stanhope as he navigates the case, whilst also trying to keep inlaws and family supported. Written with a cosy yet pacey prose that will render The Blood Flower a more appealing read to those who are not keen on guts and gore, Reeve explores gender identity, which seems hidden from 19th century literature, with this series of novels. Considered and dripping with character, Reeve makes you want to read on, and get to the bottom of the homicides in Portsmouth.
The Blood Flower is out in paperback 24th November, published by Bloomsbury.