Starred review in Publisher’s Weekly
“I LOVED it! Very stylish, very ingenious and very well-written.” Joanne Harris
Forty years ago, in 1769, a young Englishman sailed on a ship to distant paradises. On one of them lived a princess. The Englishman loved women and loved life, and he took this princess against her will, and she disappeared. He never saw her again.
That young man is now one of the most powerful in England. He is Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society, advocate for the new sciences and curator of Kew Gardens. Haunted by that long-ago transgression, he has paid for a ship to return to that same paradise – the island of Tahiti – and bring back as many plants as its crew can find to stock the hothouses of Kew.
But on their return the men from the voyage begin to die, and their faces at death suggest a state of ecstasy. What has been taken from them? And what put that awful smile on their dying mouths? Sir Joseph turns to the one man he knows who might unpick such a mystery, Wapping’s unique waterman-constable Charles Horton.
Horton’s strange methods of detection, unknown in a London without a police force, soon have results. His investigations point him towards Kew, towards Sir Joseph, and ultimately towards that dark island paradise on the far side of the world. Has that long-remembered princess returned to haunt Sir Joseph? And if so – what does she want?