Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/
Terry has been reading Fear & Phantoms by Carol Hedges
5 stars (and possibly more)
This is the sixth book in Carol Hedges’ Victorian Detectives series, featuring the inimitable Leo Stride and Jack Cully. As ever, it is a complete stand alone; there is the odd reference to events that occurred in previous books, but none of these would make the book any less enjoyable to a reader new to the series.
The story opens in London’s freezing early months of 1865, with a series of sightings of a ghostly Madonna in the Underground. This, however, is but a humorous diversion from the main story, which involves a dastardly conman who defrauds banks to the extent of their ruin, and murders those who impede his success.
As ever, the star of the show is mid-Victorian era London itself, with many delightful, larger-than-life characters to illustrate its many faces. You will meet the enchanting Pip and Muggly – starving street children who press their noses up against bakery shop windows – the rich in their gambling dens, hard-working clerks Helen and her twin brother Lambert Trigg, the lovely Lucy Landseer – aspiring novelist and writer of controversial articles – and the Triggs’ landlords, Mr and Mrs Mutesius, so beautifully painted that you can almost smell the fustiness of their downstairs quarters, and many more.
One quip I have to mention ~ Jack Cully’s disapproval of the name of a new cosmetic. ‘I’m not a religious man, but all the same, I don’t approve of using Bible names like that. It’s wrong. Virgin soap, Virgin cream ~ whatever next? Virgin trains?’
No detail is spared in illustrating the gap between rich and poor, the plight of those who are just scraping together enough to keep body and soul together in grim lodgings, and the careless attitude of the unprincipled rich. Ms Hedges’ love of London and the period shines through, as always, her impeccable research and easy wit making this novel a joy to read; I read it in bed, as I always do with this series; curled up under the duvet I could almost believe that outside my window was Victorian London. I loved every word.
When a young man’s body is discovered buried deep beneath the winter snow, Detectives Stride and Cully little realise where the discovery will take them. Is his murder a random, one-off event, or could the death be linked to the mysteriously elusive individual who has already brought down one of the City’s long-standing private banks?
Mishap, misunderstanding and mystery dog their footsteps, as the Scotland Yard detectives find themselves in very murky territory indeed, struggling to keep their heads above water in the umbrous underworld of murder and financial fraud.
Can they unmask the dark brutal mastermind lurking at the centre of it all, before he strikes again?
A taut, gripping historical crime novel that lays bare the dubious practices of the Victorian banking businesses and entices the reader into the shady world of high-class gambling houses, where fortunes can be made or lost on the luck of the cards.