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London: 1840. The economy is sliding into recession; gangs of unemployed workers roam the streets; and a murderer prowls the capital's poor neighbourhoods. Pyke, still grieving over the death of his wife and struggling to shoulder his responsibilities as a father, is in debtors' prison, having lost his home and reached the edge of bankruptcy. Fitzroy Tilling, now head of the new Metropolitan Police Force gives Pyke his freedom, but in return he must agree to investigate the brutal death of a young mulatto woman, who was apparently working as a prostitute. It is not long before another woman turns up dead, and Pyke begins to suspect that he has stumbled on something more sinister, and more far-reaching than the murder of a couple of prostitutes...Pyke's investigation takes him from the London docks to the sugar plantations of Jamaica, from a fading colonial mansion to the back-streets of the East End in a struggle against ambitious and ruthless enemies, as well as demons of his own.