Desert Isle Keeper
The Corpse Played Dead
I’ve been anxiously awaiting the next installment in the Lizzie Hardwicke series and it does not disappoint! Ms. Clarke has another winner on her hands. The Corpse Played Dead is just as intriguing and brilliantly written as the first book in the series, Death and the Harlot.
The Corpse Played Dead picks up two months after the end of the last book. Lizzie, a high-class prostitute at Ma Farley’s bawdy house, is enjoying a degree of notoriety after helping Bow Street solve a murder mystery. And now Bow Street – and in particular, investigator Will Davenport – wants Lizzie’s help again, this time to portray a seamstress employed at a Drury Lane theatre that has been plagued by mishaps or perhaps deliberate attempts to undermine theatre owner David Garrick. Lizzie can’t resist – curiosity being her downfall – and the investigation begins. The little mishaps continue with Lizzie quietly observing and probing the members of the theatre group and then, quite out of the blue, one of the wealthier patrons of the theatre, the Earl of Hawbridge, is found, by Lizzie, hung, upside down, throat slashed in the middle of the stage.
This changes everything. Davenport gives Lizzie a chance to pull out of the investigation but Lizzie is too intrigued – she knew Hawbridge from her life before Ma Farley’s house and she now has a relationship with most of the suspects, so she’s not going anywhere. Why has the trouble at the theatre escalated from a few broken candelabras and threatening notes to a brutal murder? Who are the two men that are comforting the Countess of Hawbridge? Where is the playwright who threatened Garrick in his own theatre? The race to solve the mystery is on!
Once again, Ms. Clarke delivers an enthralling whodunit full of intriguing characters and well-researched writing. I loved the descriptions of theatre life and the rabbit warren of the backstage. As in the previous book, Ms. Clarke brings real-life people into her stories – this time famous theatre owner David Garrick. It’s a fast-paced, satisfying read with a surprise (yet plausible) ending and all the loose threads nicely tied up.
Lizzie Hardwicke is fast becoming one of my favorite heroines. She is certainly an unconventional heroine with her livelihood as a harlot – something she still makes no apologies for and is doing her best to leave once she accumulates enough savings. She is strong, courageous, clever, and thoroughly likeable, and Ms. Clarke is able to make us see that what Lizzie does for a living does not define who she is.
The Corpse Played Dead also gives us some progress in the relationship between Davenport and Lizzie. Davenport’s ideals have become less black and white – entertaining a few shades of gray now. And, unconsciously I believe, he is starting to see Lizzie as a woman and not just a whore.
He stared at my hand for a moment, and then placed his own hand over mine, holding it firmly against his coat. I could feel his heart beating beneath my fingers. I could feel my own pounding inside my ribs…Then he suddenly stepped back, nodded goodnight and turned away towards the Garden, disappearing into the throng.
A feeling that I had not known before rose within me as I watched him go, the warmth of his hand still lingering on mine. The feeling troubled me, so I pushed it away.
The moments between Davenport and Lizzie were my favorite and the chemistry between them is wonderful. Davenport is clearly beginning to feel a spark of admiration and attraction to Lizzie. The final scene in the book gave me goosebumps of excitement, hope, foreboding… Frankly, I have no idea how Ms. Clarke is going to bring these two together but I trust her implicitly!
The Corpse Played Dead could be read as a stand-alone but do yourself a favor and start at the beginning. The development of the relationship between Lizzie and Davenport is not to be missed, and I can’t wait for the next installment!
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