Twenty years ago Maximus Batten witnessed his parents’ murders. Now the Duke of Wakefield, he spends his days ruling Parliament. But by night, disguised as the Ghost of St. Giles, he prowls the city in search of the murderer. Then, one night, he comes toe-to-toe with a fiery woman. Artemis Greaves toils as a lady’s companion, but beneath her plain brown dress is the heart of a huntress. When the Ghost of St. Giles rescues her from footpads, she recognizes a kindred spirit and is intriguedespecially when she realizes who the notorious Ghost is by day. When she tries to blackmail him, she finds such a move against a powerful duke isn’t without risks.
Rating: B for content and B- for narration
Having reached the conclusion earlier this year that I was never going to get around to actually reading the Maiden Lane series, I decided to listen to the books instead, which proved, on the whole, to have been a good decision. I thoroughly enjoyed books 1-4 and, I think like many devotees of the series, was rather disappointed when I saw that book 5 (Lord of Darkness) had been recorded using a different narrator. But I wanted to continue listening to the series and thought I’d give it a try. That turned out to be the first audiobook ever that I couldn’t finish, which was due entirely to the fact that listening to that particular narrator was akin to listening to nails scraping down a blackboard.
I was therefore pleased – and somewhat apprehensive – when I saw that Duke of Midnight (book 6) would be using a different narrator, and hoped Claudia Harris would be an improvement upon the last one. That has fortunately proved to be the case.
The hero of Duke of Midnight is Maximus Batten, the powerful Duke of Wakefield whom we learned, at the end of Lord of Darkness is the third of the trio of men who have assumed a harlequin’s motley and roamed the foul and dangerous streets of St. Giles by night. Wakefield first appeared in the second book in the series (Notorious Pleasures) and came across as an autocratic, haughty, and unpleasant man with an obsession which he would pursue at any cost. In this book, he’s still very much the same man, although we now get to know the reasons for his obsession, and given he’s the romantic hero of the story, we also get to see a slightly softer side of him through his relationship with Artemis Greaves, a well-born young lady who has fallen on hard times and who now lives as a lady’s companion.
I’m sure the similarities between Maximus and another masked (or, rather, caped) crusader will not go unnoticed by anyone who reads or listens to the book. He’s incredibly wealthy, he saw his parents murdered when he was a child, he has an old family retainer who knows of his secret identity, and has a hidden cave beneath his townhouse and the neighbouring streets.
Our eighteenth century Batman, like his twentieth century counterpart, feels responsible for his parents’ death and has spent much of his life searching for their killer, a search which has led to his obsession with ridding St. Giles (and London in general) of the gin palaces that did so much harm to the poor. He is still fighting in parliament by day to get bills and votes passed that will bring the full weight of the law to bear on those manufacturing the spirit illegally and, by night, he trawls the streets looking for clues as to the identity of the murderer.
You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.