Today’s team review is from Noelle.
Noelle blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com
Noelle has been reading Murder & Mischief by Carol Hedges
I’ve read and reviewed Murder and Mayhem, a previous book by this author, and liked it so much I jumped at the chance to review this one.
Ms. Hedges has cleverly entwined two stories in this, the tenth outing of her Victorian mystery series. The setting is London in 1868, and the city itself quickly becomes a main character because of the colorful, detailed descriptions the author creates for the reader.
In the plot, Detective Inspector Grieg of Scotland Yard is called to Hill House, the upper class residence of Mr. Barrowclough, a very wealthy real estate developer. A ‘snowman’ has been found in his garden by his two sons. The ‘snowman’ is a man’s frozen body, covered thickly from a recent snowfall. Mr. Barrowclough denies knowledge of the man, although one of his old hats is part of the snowman’s clothing. Grieg is convinced the dead man is linked to Barrowclough’s business, which entails buying land near where the London underground railway is planned to plough through, putting up cheap houses and selling them at a high price because of location. But he has to probe into Barrowclough’s history to get to the truth. The second story is pure Dickens – two children, Flitch and Liza, escape from the workhouse where they were forced to go with their mother after their father left them for work in America. The mother died there, and Flitch is determined to make a life for himself and his sister in London. They are trailed there by their father who returns to claim them and also by the managers of the workhouse, once the father offers a reward for finding them. Also on their trail is a female detective the father hires.
The reader is faced, along with the main characters, with some challenging questions? Can Flitch and Liza survive in London when they arrive with only the clothes on their backs? Who will ultimately find them – their father, the detective, the greedy workhouse managers? Why is Barrowclough receiving parcels containing dead birds, which frighten him? How are they linked to the dead man?
I loved this book. Ms. Hedges writes in the present tense and breaks the wall by talking directly to the reader at various times, usually to presage a jump from one plot to the other. Some readers may not like this technique but I found it pulled me directly into the action and setting. Her background descriptions of the rich and the poor sides of London are exceptional: public houses, the docks, the Chinese enclave, fashionable stores, mansions, apartments, and hovels. And all without excessive detail. The poverty, dirt, noise and smoke are very real. She also makes clear the role of women at the time, the consequences of poverty, the rapacious nature of real estate developers, and a host of other societal problems, but by inference and not preaching. Even the minor characters are well drawn with the nuances of life in London for the various strata in society.
The plots take the reader hither and yon and the resolution of each is unexpected and satisfying.
A resounding five stars for this book. If you like Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, this is for you.
There are nine other books in this series, each of which is related by the characters but this is a stand-alone in terms of reading. I highly recommend reading all of them!
It is January, a time of year when not much crime usually happens. But when Inspector Greig is unexpectedly summoned to the opulent Hampstead residence of Mr. James William Malin Barrowclough, a rich businessman, he embarks upon one of the strangest and most bizarre investigations that he has ever been involved in.
Why has Barrowclough been targeted? What is inside the mysterious parcels that keep arriving at Hill House, and why won’t he cooperate with the police? The case will take the Scotland Yard detectives on a journey out of London and into the victim’s past, to uncover the secrets and lies that haunt his present.
Murder & Mischief is the tenth novel in the series, and in the great tradition of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it entices the reader once again along the teeming streets and dimly gas lit thoroughfares of Victorian London, where rich and poor, friend and foe alike mix and mingle.
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Great review, Noelle. I totally agree, and I hope to read more books in the series in the future. Have a great holiday season!
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You, too, Olga. I am finding the ones in the series I haven’t read yet and having a fun time with them!
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