this my first review in 2016 and again I return to Victorian England. It is still one of my favourite period of time and I can get enough of it. Nevertheless I'm aware that life in this period of time was no bed of roses. After reading the description I had some expectation of this debut novel .....
Here we go.
The Strings of Murder
(digital, February 2015) [ Kindle Edition ASIN: B00NPIUILA]
by Oscar de Muriel.
"A spellbinding concoction of crime, history and horror - perfect for fans of Sherlock Holmes and Jonathan Creek.
Edinburgh, 1888. A virtuoso violinist is brutally killed in his home. Black magic symbols cover the walls. The dead man's maid swears she heard three musicians playing before the murder.
But with no way in or out of the locked practice room, the puzzle makes no sense...
Fearing a national panic over a copycat Ripper, Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Frey to investigate under the cover of a fake department specializing in the occult. However, Frey's new boss - Detective 'Nine-Nails' McGray - actually believes in such nonsense.
McGray's tragic past has driven him to superstition, but even Frey must admit that this case seems beyond reason. And once someone loses all reason, who knows what they will lose next..." [Source]
The 346 pages of the book are divided into 35 consecutively numbered chapters which are framed by an prologue and an epilogue.
The story is told in the first person by Inspector Ian Frey of Magdeburg which means he belongs to nobility. I come back to that soon.
Jack the Ripper spreads terror. Police and government are under pressure from Crown and public. The fear of uproar is palpable.
Therefore the message of a brutal murder under mysterious circumstances in Edinburgh must be solved quick and with as less as possible civil commotion.
The failure of the police in the Ripper case lead to consequences which accompanied by other revelations turn the life of Inspector Ian Frey upside down within one day.
Frey is ordered to go to Edinburgh to support Scottish Detective Adolpho 'Nine-Nails' McGray.
The first meeting of the two main protagonists is like a collision of worlds and I was afraid that the ongoing bickering between Frey and McGray would be no good for the story. Quite the contrary ! A lot of things would not have happened without the bickering. It is an important ingredient.
Beside the excellent described Frey and McGray other characters do not disappear. Every person important for the story from the servant over the superior over the gypsy to the poor chimney sweep get the deserved attention.
There are two main locations: London and Edinburgh.
We know a lot of at least London in Victorian era thanks to countless reports, books written at the times, photos and pictures. We don't know how it smelled, it reeked.
It is magnificent how the author let come these two towns come alive. It is like a time travel to places you have not been before. You see the dirt on your shoes, the malodorousness creeps into your nose until the nostrils are filled with the ever present soot, The foggy streets give you the creep, You try to avoid the ruthless cart and coach drivers, you taste the drinks and food which make your stomach rumble and more .....
This is the atmosphere which people with a passion for Victorian England love and it is all in the book just waiting to blossom in your imagination.
The mystery itself is a unique and complex one and comes along with more than a gothic touch which is underlined through the superstition in the mind of many people. All the twists and turns let you guess for a long time who is the responsible for the killing of people in Edinburgh. Through the importance of violin for the story the author delivers a lot of insight in the work of instrument makers which is most interesting for readers who are not familiar with the making of violin.
The mystery and all the steps to be taken to solve it is irresolvable connected to the private life of Frey and McGray and their dear and near ones.
The case does not stop at the entrance of the home.
The writing is superbly. English is not my first language. The use of the Scottish accent ( like "ken" instead of "know") slowed down my reading but I enjoyed it because it underlines the difference between Frey as a noble coming from the most important town of the country and the inhabitants of Edinburgh.
Finally I need to mention that beside all the murder, mystery and horror the author flavoured the story with humour which delivers a fabulous read.
What a brilliant debut novel! Oscar de Muriel pressed the right buttons and pulled the right strings to deliver a promising, brilliant, riveting and unforgettable start of a series which is MOREISH.
The chapter have the prefect length for all the "just one more chapter" readers like me which mean you will look tired in the morning ......
I rated the book with five stars over at GOODREADS because it entertained me perfectly in every aspect and that is what I expect from a book. Furthermore it let me think about superstition and living conditions in Victorian England.
It sounds like a nightmare when you read reports about chimney sweepers in Victorian England.
Now I can't wait to read the next book in the series.
A Fever of the Blood (digital, February 2016) [Kindle edition ASIN: B00NPIUILA] by Oscar de Muriel will be available on 11th of February 2016.
Of course I ordered a copy in advance.