Short Stories 366:205 — “First Foot,” by Jess Faraday

coverAnd here we are at the end of Shadow of Justice, bidding a farewell to our gay, late 1800’s constable Simon Pearce. “First Foot” continues the enjoyable mix of mystery-alongside-relationship-drama that’s been a part of the collection for most of the tales. This time, waylaid by bad weather and arriving late, Simon’s attempt to meet with Cal on New Year’s Eve (which was set-up in the last story) becomes almost missing him, and ends up with him having to hop on board a train at the last moment so they can finally have their face-to-face. It’s not ideal, and it’s made all the worse when the widow of a wealthy merchant man who just died suddenly comes down with the same symptoms. It could be a fast-moving disease (which, given the traffic of humanity passing through King’s Cross station, would be a disaster), but it seems to both Cal and Simon that poison is more likely.

Who might have killed the merchant, and who might want the merchant’s wife dead as well? Well, with Simon on board, there’s a chance for justice to prevail, and this last story has as many tangles and twists as most of the others, but definitely comes out on top as the most theatrical of the bunch. Between Cal’s medical knowledge and Simon’s skills as an investigator, the two work together to figure it all out—and in the process, end up with a good idea of how they want to move forward thereafter.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed the journey of constable Simon Pearce. Faraday did a really solid job of balancing the realities facing queer people in the time and place (and especially of a policeman) and the ways queer people managed to carve out their own happiness. It’s a delicate balance, and one of the reasons I often shy away from historically set books with queer characters. I will admit to being a little greedy and wishing I’d had one more story of the two men working together with something solidifying their next chapter, but maybe that’s forthcoming. Honestly, a mystery series with the two working together would be a joy.

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