Today’s team review is from Barb.
Barb blogs here https://barbtaub.com/
Barb has been reading Murder & Mischief by Carol Hedges
In her Victorian Detective series, author Carol Hedges offers both Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle the sincerest form of flattery as she imitates their signature tropes in Murder & Mischief, her tenth book in the series. But at the same time, she invites the reader to laugh with her as she undermines those tropes to create her signature subversive, funny, sometimes icky, and occasionally sweet police procedurals, Victorian style.
We have plucky orphans and their ghoulish keepers, straight out of Oliver Twist, as intrepid young siblings Liza and Flitch escape the workhouse to seek their fortune in London. Their self-reliant optimism contrasts with the entitled behavior of the sons of a wealthy businessman who have spent “…three years at Eton, learning Latin, Greek and social superiority.”
Iconic detective Sherlock Holmes is translated into Miss Lucy Landseer, writer and self styled consulting detective whose latest client has hired her to track down Liza and Flitch. Instead of a celibate, borderline-sociopath, and very peculiarly-dressed amateur detective with a less intelligent Dr. Watson sidekick, brilliant sibling Mycroft, and university professor Moriarty as arch-enemy, Lucy is a self-reliant, decidedly non-celibate, fashionably dressed detective who solves crimes by asking questions and writing down clues in her notebook, all with only the occasional help from her compliant, supportive lover—a university professor who isn’t anybody’s nemesis. Instead of insisting the plot thickens, the game’s afoot, or even “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” the eminently practical Lucy shares her philosophy that “…the investigating mind works better when it can see the actual places in which events occurred.”
But first and foremost, we have our old friends at Scotland Yard, who are investigating the mystery of a frozen corpse used as a snowman, with only a top hat as clue to his identity. When the hat’s former owner, wealthy businessman and all-round nasty piece of work Mr. James William Malin Barrowclough, is also murdered, the group’s recently promoted member, Tom Williams, is on the case. It was as much Tom’s mastery of punctuation as his ‘fine sense of injustice’ that first brought him to the attention of Detective Inspector Grieg.
“Grieg recalls the first time he encountered young Tom Williams, a lowly beat constable with more education and intelligence than was normally the case. He used words like ‘amiss’ in his reports; he could punctuate. And he didn’t begin every sentence with ‘I was proceeding’.”
That brings us to the final player, the city of London itself. All of their stories intersect and intertwine in the best Dickens tradition with London as the connecting thread. “And now, events that seem totally disparate and unconnected, are suddenly about to collide, as often happens in Babylondon, the greatest city on earth.” Victorian London is a living, breathing creature on a massive scale. “After sunset, when the lamplighter has run round the streets, and in the flickering yellow glow of the streetlamps, there is a moment when day stands on the threshold of night. The city seems to catch its breath.” Amusingly, an affluent French couple are appalled by the dirt and construction everywhere compared to the wide boulevards of Paris, while London native Tom Williams is equally horrified by the filth and noise of Birmingham.
As I’ve said about this series before, if you like your mysteries in multiples, your tropes both visible and upside down, your settings both historically exact and contemporaneously delightful, and your characters varied, funny, and heart-tugging, then Murder & Mischief is for you. If you haven’t seen this series before, I strongly urge you to start from the beginning. If the cast are old friends and new acquaintances, then sit back for a wild trip through Victorian London as only Carol Hedges can take you. Either way, you’re the lucky one!
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.