When we last left Simon Pearce, our hero the gay constable in the late 1800’s, he’d gone back to London, leaving an amazing opportunity—well, two of them, really—behind, thanks to his own temper and jealous nature. I’m not going to lie, I gave Shadow of Justice a good long glare for a moment, as I was enjoying Simon’s journey to potentially allowing himself some happiness, but I trusted Jess Faraday to keep at least a spark of hope going, and with “The Blood is the Life,” there was… well, there was definitely some further worry about said spark.
Don’t get me wrong, every step of this story (which is darker in tone than most of the tales and a shade more erotic, too) lands well, and Simon himself is in a bad place given the events of “The Star-Crossed Lovers,” but I want this man to be happy and as such, watching his self-destructive behaviour and his regressing to getting in his own way was painful. Totally believable, but painful. In this case, Simon ends up in over his head with a group of men who are more powerful and connected than he is, and most of higher birth, and he discovers a conspiracy that goes very high indeed.
Then he has to choose between his own survival and justice, and for the first time, Simon realizes he can’t completely win. There’s no version of events where the terrible are punished and he is still standing, career and life intact. He makes his choice, and I appreciated how in-line it felt with everything that came before. It’s a bold turn to the stories thus far, and I’ll admit that I immediately struck into the next of the collection, if only to discover whether or not Simon would be okay (he was). This is one of the rare stories in the book where justice isn’t served, but don’t fret: this is a collection of linked tales, and there’s closure to be had in the next tale.