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.
It is a delight to return to Victorian London to meet Carol’s panoply of characters once again. On a snowy day in 1868 we encounter two thoroughly unpleasant boys, the sons of successful land speculator J W M Barrowclough, who have benefited at Eton College from, “learning Latin, Greek and social superiority.” But shortly afterwards DI Lachlan Greig is summoned from Scotland Yard to their residence, Hill House, to investigate a snowman which encases a dead body.
Greig is a wise man with all the right contacts, so he gains useful information about the Barrowclough family from Lilith Marks in the Lily Lounge Tearoom. He then follows up the snowman’s top hat, originally purchased from Lock & Co, Hatters and I was surprised on Monday to see a hat from this company, which is still trading in St James St, sold on TV’s Bargain Hunt.
We also meet two much more charming children, Liza & Flitch, who have run away from the Poor Law Union Workhouse in Cambridge, hidden on board a stagecoach to London. Flitch is such an enterprising young lad that they soon have the means to buy some food & pay for accommodation. Circumstances put them in contact with the Transformative Brethren, a group of artists in Camden who concentrate on the destruction and reconstruction of London streets and the people who live there.
Descriptions of Barrowclough’s lifestyle give us a clear picture of aspects of London society such as the Gentleman’s Club while the orphaned children explore its underbelly. When Detective Constable Tom Williams travels to Birmingham for further investigations he is amazed by the difference to his experience of central London.
“From the moment Williams steps out into the thronged thoroughfare, his ears are assailed by the hammering of presses and the clatter of engines. The noise of Birmingham is beyond description.
There are dust heaps everywhere. The streets do not appear to have been sluiced. Tom steps over piles of litter and manure, oily black water, bones, rotten vegetables. Flies buzz, stray dogs fight. Great carts loaded with coal, lime and iron bars queue from one street to another, their drivers shouting at each other in an accent he does not understand.”
Each strand of the story gradually unwinds, despite tremendous hazards, to logical conclusions and along the way we are educated in social history, amused by the escapades of the children and intrigued by the murder mystery. If you haven’t discovered these compelling Victorian adventures before now, it is time to start reading, either this excellent read alone story or better still the first book in the series.
My Review of Diamonds & Dust the first book in the Victorian Detectives series.
Murder & Mischief newly released on Amazon UK