Bath, 1787... English society, high and low, gathers for pleasure and profit...
The slaver's son, Charlie, has lost his governess in a fall down the stairs of the family's palatial mansion. Anne suspects the death might not have been an accident and begins to investigate.
She is aided by her friend and suitor, Paul de Saint-Martin, together with his adjutant, Georges Charpentier. They believe the young woman's death may have been the work of that renegade French army officer, Captain Fitzroy, already accused of a brutal rape in Paris. He has found refuge at the mansion with his cousin and intimate friend, Lady Margaret, wife of Sir Harry Rogers, the slaver.
Anne discovers she must protect as well as teach the deaf boy. He is threatened by Rogers' ward, William, a big teen-age boy with a grown man's bad habits. She also has to cope with Sir Harry's clerk and spy, Edward Critchley, an educated man trapped in genteel poverty.
Finally, enter Lord Jeff. The black footman, a bare-knuckle fighter of impressive skill, may win Sir Harry a large purse. But the slave has his own agenda. The abolition of slavery is a hot topic in a city that draws much of its wealth from the nefarious business.
About the Mystery
Black Gold is the second in a series of historical mysteries set in England and France on the eve of the French Revolution. The setting is Bath, a lovely Georgian city and England's most fashionable spa, during the spring season of 1787. The "players" include haughty aristocrats, wealthy upstart businessmen, social climbing women, adventurers, courtesans, sharpers, addicted gamblers, and a representative sample of the dregs of English society.
Anne Cartier goes to Bath to tutor the deaf son of a Bristol slaver. Unexpectedly, Anne's friend from Paris, Colonel Paul de Saint-Martin arrives in Bath, pursuing a rogue former captain in the French service. Add to this Jack Roach, a malign ghost from Anne's past, a black slave bare-knuckle fighter yearning for freedom, and a shrewd Bow Street detective, and you have a deadly brew.
"Charles O'Brien has woven together an intrigue which is so deep in its structure and intertwined with the events of the times that it is difficult to find a parallel..."
Dast Magazine, review by Bertil Falk
"O'Brien provides a whole package for mystery lovers: a brave heroine and hero; several mysteries to solve; a socially conscious subplot... and an evocation of a place and time that adds depth and precision to the rest of the tale. This is a historical mystery to get lost in, satisfying at every level."
Booklist, American Library Association, review by Ilene Cooper
Poisoned Pen Press