Book review Book reviews

The Sans Pareil Mystery (The Detective Lavender Mysteries Book 2) by Karen Charlton Great female historical figures and an enjoyable regency mystery

Hi all:

Seriously, I haven’t that many reviews left to share now before I get up-to-date… This week we have an interesting lot, so, don’t miss them!

The Sans Pareil Mystery by Karen Charlton
The Sans Pareil Mystery by Karen Charlton

The Sans Pareil Mystery (The Detective Lavender Mysteries Book 2) by Karen Charlton

On a cold February night in Regency London, a dark curtain falls on the Sans Pareil Theatre following the death of April Clare, a promising young actress, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances.

Detective Stephen Lavender and his dependable deputy, Constable Woods, quickly discover that nothing is quite as it seems. As successive mysteries unfold, they soon realise that it is not only the actors from the Sans Pareil who are playing a part.

With the Napoleonic War looming dangerously across the Channel, this is a time of suspicion and treachery. Following the clues from the seedy back streets of Covent Garden up through the echelons of society, Lavender and Woods begin to fear that the case is much bigger than they’d dared imagine—and worse, that they are at risk of becoming mere players in a master criminal’s shadowy drama.

It will take all of Lavender’s skill and wit, and help from the beautiful Magdalena, to bring the mystery of the Sans Pareil Theatre to a dramatic conclusion in the final act.


Author Karen Charlton
Author Karen Charlton

About the author:

Hello, and thank you for visiting my Amazon Page. I’m Karen Charlton, a writer of mysteries. I write historical crime fiction, set in Regency England.

My Detective Lavender Mysteries, published by Thomas & Mercer, are the fictional adventures of Stephen Lavender, who was a real-life Principal Officer with the Bow Street Police Office in London.

By the early 19th century, Principal officers had a variety of different and important roles although they were still nicknamed ‘Bow Street Runners’ as if they were messenger boys. Apart from supporting their colleagues solve crime in the capital, they were often sent out to help magistrates in the provinces with difficult cases. They also took part in undercover work in periods of insurrection, for example, during the Luddite riots in the Midlands and were available to hire by wealthy landowners.

They were Britain’s earliest private detectives and were famous throughout London. They were the only policemen allowed into Buckingham House (the forerunner of the palace) and did security work for the Bank of England. On some occasions, they were even sent abroad to help with crimes and criminals who had spilled out over our borders onto the continent.

Through my research, I have come across dozens of their cases reported in the newspapers of the time. I frequently use them as the basis for the plots of my novels. I am currently writing the fourth book in the series: ‘Plague Pits & River Bones.’ There are also two Detective Lavender Short Stories to compliment the series: ‘The Mystery of the Skelton Diamonds’ and ‘The Piccadilly Pickpocket.’

‘Catching the Eagle’, my first novel, is the true story of our notorious ancestor, Jamie Charlton, who was convicted back in 1810 of Northumberland’s biggest robbery. To explain how my late husband and I discovered this gaol-bird in our family tree, I wrote my nonfiction genealogy book, ‘Seeking Our Eagle.’ It’s a ‘How -we-did-it’ rather than a ‘whodunit?’ and is probably the closest I’ll ever come to an autobiography.

An English graduate and a former teacher, I now write full-time and live in a remote fishing village on the North East coast of England. I am a stalwart of the village pub quiz and my team once won the BBC quiz show ‘Eggheads.’ My other claim to fame is that I won a Yorkshire Tourist Board award for writing Murder Mystery Weekends.

Apart from that, I’m pretty normal really.

I hope you enjoy my stories and, if you do, please remember to leave me a review.

You can find out more about me and my work at

Please remember to sign up for my Occasional Newsletter on the landing page if you would like regular updates about my literary exploits and adventures.


My review:

I was provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review.

This is the first novel in the series of the Detective Lavender Mysteries I’ve read and the first regency detective novel too, and I thought it was an enjoyable ride.

I liked the characters (although perhaps a bit more the sidekicks). Like in a musical or an operetta, we have the serious and higher class protagonists (although Lavender isn’t a nobleman, he’s well-educated) and then we have Constable Woods, and the servants. There are also the seedy characters around Bow Street, which together with the well-researched architectonic details and the language of the period create a credible atmosphere and bring to life the London of the era.

The characters created by the author mix with real historical figures, and I was in particular fascinated by the extraordinary women she chooses to portray, like Jane Scott and Dorothea Jordan (thanks, Sarah!), one the owner of a theatre, a writer and actress (the Sans-Pareil of the title) and the other the mistress of the Prince of Wales, and a comedy actress who kept the prince and ten children with her own work.

There are intrigues, murders, kidnappings, spies, romance… The book is a page-turner, and I enjoyed the setting, the descriptions of London, the intrigues and the mystery, the fast pace, the theatrical setting, and the humour. Lavender gets a lot of help from other characters and sometimes pure luck, but he manages to get the case to a satisfying conclusion (and there’s romance too!).

An easy and light read, with interesting and not heavily laid historical background, and good pace and sense of humour. Very enjoyable.

Thanks to the author, thanks to all of you for writing, and remember to like, share, comment, CLICK, and of course, remember to leave a review when you read a book. 

Oh, Sarah Vernon, who unfortunately couldn’t leave a comment (WordPress wasn’t cooperating) recommends a book that sounds fabulous about the real Dorothea Jordan by Claire Tomalin, Mrs Jordan’s Profession: The Story of a Great Actress and a Future King. It looks fabulous. Thanks, Sarah!

By OlgaNunez

I was born in Barcelona and after living in the UK for many years have now returned home. I teach English, volunteer at Sants 3 Ràdio, a local radio station, I'm a writer, translator (English-Spanish and vice-versa) and I'm a medical doctor and worked in Forensic Psychiatry many years. I also have a BA and a PhD in American Literature and Film, and a Masters in Criminology. I've always loved books and apart from writing them I review them often.
I write a bit of everything, check my books for more information and my about page for links.
My blog is bilingual, English and Spanish.

6 replies on “The Sans Pareil Mystery (The Detective Lavender Mysteries Book 2) by Karen Charlton Great female historical figures and an enjoyable regency mystery”

Hi Olga. It sounds like so many of my favorite things rolled into one. Would love to read.
It sounds like the second in a series, yet the first in a related series? Have I got that right?
Well, you know I have a lot on my mind, so I’m probably not thinking clearly. Thanks for another spot-on review. Hugs.

Hi, Teagan. Thanks for the comment. And it’s not you. I don’t think I made myself clear. The whole truth is that I read this novel a while back when I was helping with the selection for a historical novel award. Due to that I had to reply to a number of questions but we were not supposed to reveal we were helping the jury or what our opinion was. I still felt bad about not leaving a review, so I wrote a brief one without going into too many details. It is the second novel in the series, but the first one I read (in the series and by the author), although it can be read independently. I must admit I was intrigued about the characters, and I’m sure people who’d read the first one would enjoy revisiting them again. Reading the biography of the author, and considering she writes murder mystery weekends in the area where I live (when I am in the UK), I must try and catch up with one of them. They’ve always sounded fun to me but have yet to manage to go on one. I hope things get better this week, dear Teagan.

The history of the early police force in London, The Bow Street Runners, is interesting in that they were very different in structure to the Metropolitan Police, which followed in 1829. They acted on Judge’s (like Henry Fielding) warrants mostly, operating all over the country. They were paid a share of rewards as well as a salary, and although small in number formed the basis of what might be regarded to be a national police force. There was also a night duty Foot Patrol, and a Horse Patrol that operated along the main roads around the city.
It is a good subject for Karen’s novel, though perhaps I might be more interested in a non-fiction account of their actual exploits.
Best wishes, Pete.

Thanks, Pete. I remember reading about all those as part of my Criminology course, although we didn’t spend huge amounts of time on history (we read more about the laws than the police forces, although I’m sure that was because I chose Criminal Justice. There were plenty of members of the police force in the course studying the law enforcement side of things). This novel definitely goes down the entertainment path for sure, but it does it well and it’s an interesting subject and background. Have a great week.

The theatrical connection and the fact that I’m rather getting into historical mystery fiction means that I shall certainly be buying this book! Thank you for giving your slant on it, Olga. If you haven’t read Claire Tomalin’s Mrs Jordan’s Profession: The Story of a Great Actress and a Future King, it’s a must. She was actually Dorothea Jordan, often shortened to Dora, which was the moniker she preferred.

Thanks, Sarah. It seems your comment finally made it, although it was in the spam folder. I added the information to the post and corrected the spelling. The book you recommend sounds fantastic (well, all of the writer’s do). I might try and see if I can find it on paper when I’m back in the UK (I know I could order it too, but I love rummaging around second-hand bookstores). 😉

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