In Victorian London, twelve days before christmas, James Wentworth approaches his friend Henry Rathbone, to find his wayward son Lucien, who had disappeared into the underbelly of London pleasure haunts. Henry decides to seek the advice of Hester Monk, who runs a clinic for destitute women. Squeaky Robinson, who works for Hester, finds out Henry's mission and tries to help him without bringing in Hester, as the depraved pleasure haunts of London are hardly the place for a lady, even one as independent and bold as Hester.
Squeaky in a former life, had seen all the depravity but there are somethings he feels that are even too much for him. He approaches his friend 'almost doctor' Crow. After initial investigations, they find that Lucien had moved further underground and may not be worth while to bring him back. They learn that Lucien is obsessed with Sadie, a great beauty who finds amusement in blood and making people fight for her. Niccolo is also obsessed with Sadie. Lucien and Niccolo seem to be at each other throats. Squeaky and Crow feel it is better to abort the mission.
Henry is not ready to abort the mission, whatever the level of depravity. He joins their quest in finding Lucien. They take the help of Bessie, a teenager who knows the place. At one pleasure haunt, they find pools of blood, but no body. Somebody is dead. But who is? Is it Lucien? Or Niccolo? Or Sadie? Or more than one is dead?
Anne Perry takes us on a odyssey into the ugly West End Victorian Pleasure haunts. Where the rich, finding no adventure in real life, seek new and illegal pleasures under the influence of opium. This book does not feature her regular characters like, Hester, Monk, Oliver Rathbone instead in the same timeline, with characters related to these, like Oliver's father, Henry and Squeaky who works with Hester are featured. It is a short novella just right for the season. I do wonder, why does Wentworth approach Henry, who is not a detective, but a mathematician. He may have approached Monk, a detective, with good chances for success. This a short novella published in 2010.