Sleuthing a second time about a year after the death of her father, Ursula Marlow, amateur detective and not so popular women's suffragette, is once again not satisfied with the law. After her father's death she decides to take over his textile mill empire, running the business herself to prove her independence as a financially strong woman, and to show a backward society that women no longer need a man to survive in life. On a business trip in Egypt to oversee a cotton factory dispute, she mixes business with pleasure and embarks on some local sightseeing amidst the pyramids and ruins with her new found Russian friend Katya, who is also fighting for the suffragette cause. While out shopping in Cairo's bazaar, a sudden crowd encircles the two young ladies and subsequently Katya is killed. Struck dumbfounded by yet another murder, Ursula begins to help the local police to uncover the tragic circumstances that led to Katya's death.
Just as Ursula dons her detective thinking cap, an urgent telegram arrives from home from her dashing barrister beau, Sir Oliver Wrotham. She must return to England at once, a fire had broken out in one of her other mills and a young girl was found dead amidst the ashes. Was it an accident? Was it arson? Did someone wish the girl dead, or was this another attempt to put a stake in Ursula's ambition to build her father's empire alone.
More multiple murders and mayhem surround Ursula and once again, she must get her hands dirty as the London police don't seem to being having much sympathy or concern. It appears they don't see that there is most likely a connection to all the murders encircling Miss Marlow's life.
Political conspiracy and militant operations involving the Russian Bolsheviks add some intriguing mystery and action into this story as Ursula ties the two murders together, and gains help from her suffragette compatriots. The conflicting emotional turmoil of the love affair between Ursula and Oliver begins to get heated in this second episode, escalating the romantic tension putting the reader on edge to what the eventual outcome might be with their relationship. The Serpent and the Scorpion is a good title for this installment because Ursula soon realizes she can't trust those she was certain of, no longer knowing who her allies or foes could be. Confusion and conundrums, chaos and a dash of cryptic codes, complete the checklist items that will lead our feisty feminist into solving this crime.
If you have not read the first book in this series, Consequences of Sin, I highly suggest that you do before starting The Serpent and the Scorpion. The author inserts many important references from the start-up story that are necessary to understanding the Edwardian world of Ursula Marlow. A reader might find it difficult to jump into book two without having read the first.
I found this second book just as engrossing as the first one, and enjoyed the complexity of this riveting plot that slowly builds and ends with a very shocking cliff hanger that will leave all Langley-Hawthorne fans sitting on the edge of their seats until Clare finishes writing book three titled Unlikely Traitors. This new author is one to be watched, my women's intuition sees her rocketing to the top of the best seller lists in no time at all.