Drug trafficking, human trafficking, blackmail, betrayal, duplicity, moral ambiguity, prostitution, and murder; all things you might expect to find in the Whitechapel district around the time Jack the Ripper took the life of his final victim, Mary Kelly, then seemed to disappear from the face of the earth. They’re also things that take place within the pages of The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, the wonderful debut novel by Jess Faraday.
Cain Goddard saved Ira Adler from the streets of ‘Chapel, where Ira had been selling his body in order to survive. Goddard is the Henry Higgins to Ira’s Eliza in this story, as Cain brings Ira into his home and teaches the young man to read, write, and speak like a proper gentleman, hiring Ira as his “personal secretary”, though their relationship is far from the socially acceptable front they’re forced to portray to a world where anything more could find them both imprisoned (or worse) for gross indecency.
Cain Goddard lives a dual existence as both a rogue and a scholar, once an esteemed teacher at Cambridge University, but sent down in a scandal for which he’s now being blackmailed. Since Goddard is unable to fulfill the one passion, he immerses himself fully in the other role, becoming the infamous Duke of Dorset Street, a hated and feared criminal whose questionable ethics and rationalizations make him a fully intriguing character, and a man with whom Ira struggles and, ultimately, fails to delineate his own moral boundaries. When one allies himself with the criminal element, one has to expect that those alliances will be dubious, and that’s a lesson both men learn.
Mystery and suspense are de rigeur in this race to acquire a statue which is the key to thwarting a blackmailer, but the race turns deadly when Ira discovers that innocent children are being trafficked and that the man he realizes he’s come to love is a party to discounting the moral implications of it. It’s then that Ira realizes he may not be able to change the world, but he certainly can try to protect the future, one child at a time.
Sometimes happy endings are so evident they’re impossible to miss. Sometimes happy endings are so subjective that one hesitates even to call them happy. Sometimes the beauty of an ending, happy or otherwise, is in the eye of the beholder.
The Affair of the Porcelain Dog is so much less than a happily ever after and so much more than just a simple ending. In fact, if I find out there’s no intention to write a sequel to this book, I think I just might cry.
Other than one small personal niggle near the end that felt a little bit too God-out-of-the-machine for me to find entirely plausible, this book was just about as perfect as it could be.
The Affair of the Porcelain Dog can be purchased from Amazon and other major E-tailers.