S is for Sally Lockhart #AtoZChallenge #MondayBlogs

Although I read the three books of Philip Pullmans’ “His Dark Materials” with great enjoyment, there is something about the Sally Lockhart mysteries which appealed to me more, and that is mainly Sally herself.

Ruby     Tiger

In the first book The Ruby in the Smoke, Sally is a pretty sixteen year old orphan. Her father has taught her military tactics, to ride like a Cossack and shoot straight with a pistol, but he has drowned in suspicious circumstances in the South China Sea, Finding herself alone but determinedly independent in Victorian London she sets out to discover the truth about her father’s death, but this involves the terrifying mystery of a bloodsoaked jewel. Although the story uses the ideas of a Victorian Penny-Dreadful, Sally is a sensible hard-working girl who believes the best of people and treats others kindly. In the following books, Sally matures into a successful business woman. She experiences romance, tragedy and the turbulent politics of the time. She is very much an underrated heroine in an unusual trilogy of young adult books, not for the faint-hearted.

North

Some other heroines I chose for my A to Z are perhaps more conventional:

Anne of Green Gables

Heidi

What Katy did

Maia in Journey to the River Sea

Pollyanna

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Bridge of Dead Things by Michael Gallagher #FridayReads #BookReview

Bridge

This Young Adult book is the first story about 13 year-old Lizzie Blaylock, the involuntary Medium. Set in late Victorian London, Lizzie has been fortunate in receiving an education despite the poverty of her family. But this ceases, when a strange fit in the classroom causes teacher, Miss Smutts to expel her. Miss Smutts’ motives are suspect since she arranges employment for Lizzie as a maidservant in a rather odd household. Lizzie’s fit has revealed her special power to allow ghostly manifestations to return from the dead. Soon this gothic novel becomes darker as Lizzie is taken under the wing of Simeon de Florence, who purports to expose false mediums. There is relief from the weird experiences in the humorous characters we meet, such as Miss Otis, the kindly clairvoyant and the obsession with seances by many wealthy Victorians provides an exciting setting. I feel that Lizzie is more like a 20th century heroine in her speech and actions but the Victorian context is vividly described.

You can purchase The Bridge of Dead Things at Amazon UK

Gallagher

Michael Gallagher

Michael Gallagher is the author of two series of novels set in Victorian times. “Send for Octavius Guy” chronicles the attempts of fourteen-year-old Gooseberry—reformed master pickpocket—to become a detective, aided and abetted by his ragtag bunch of friends. “The Involuntary Medium” follows the fortunes of young Lizzie Blaylock, a girl who can materialize the spirits of the dead, as she strives to come to terms with her unique gift.

For twenty-five years Michael taught adults with learning disabilities at Bede, a London-based charity that works with the local community. He now writes full time.

Fear and Phantoms by Carol Hedges #NewRelease #RBRT #BookReview

Hedges CJ

I always look forward to another volume in Carol Hedges’ Victorian mystery series.  Once again, she has created an effective picture of the grime and poverty of 1860s London, filled with vivid characters, good, evil, peculiar and captivating.  In Fear & Phantoms, we face the very real horror of murder and fraud as well as a mysterious vision of the Madonna in the tunnel of the Metropolitan Underground railway.

An intelligent young woman, Helena Trigg, who works as a book-keeper, is baffled when her twin brother, Lambert, a senior bank clerk, disappears and comes under suspicion of fraud.  Luckily, she seeks help from reliable Detective Inspector Stride and kindly Inspector Greig, who wonder if there might be a connection to their current murder investigation. But nothing is that simple.  With wit and humour intermingled with suspense, Carol Hedges leads us through the parallel plot strands.

My favourite characters in this novel are the delightful journalist and author Lucy Landseer and the hard-working, irrepressible young cleaner, Pin.  Lucy is ahead of her time, determined to have a successful career, studying to improve her mind and certainly not intending to be dependent on a man. Pin is poor and downtrodden, but she takes care of “the boy, Muggly,” who has no-one else, and she will not tolerate unfairness or cruelty.  Both these young ladies participate actively in solving the mysteries.

There are so many delicious titbits to discover within this novel, such as names like the Hon. Tom Scallywagg MP and a creepy landlord called Mr Mutesius.  A must within a Victorian novel is a detailed description of the many exhibits in the taxidermists where we recoil in horror at the shelves, “of glass cases, full of birds and beasts in a variety of strange and unlikely poses,” but Pin loves to talk affectionately to “the tiny kittens in frilled bibs and tuckers… having a tea-party in their minute prison.”

This exciting tale can easily be read as a stand-alone or as an introduction to the wonderful series but those of you already familiar with thee Victorian murder mystery books will find all their expectations well-rewarded.

To buy Fear and Phantoms in the UK

To read my review of Diamonds & Dust, the first story about The Victorian Detectives

 

The Pierced Heart by Lynn Shepherd #BookReview

Pierced

The Pierced Heart continues the story of Lynn Shepherd’s flawed detective Charlie Maddox. Regretting his behaviour towards servant girl, Molly, he is haunted by her in his dreams which are not abated by a mission to Austria, where he finds himself in a strange castle deep in the Austrian countryside. As the plot progresses the actions of his host, Baron Von Reisenberg, take us to the Gothic world of Bram Stoker and Charlie begins to descend into madness.

For me this story came to life in Chapter 4, at the beginning of the journal of Lucy, in January 1851. Describing her travels in Paris and Vienna she is about to return to Whitby, a home she cannot remember. She recounts how she has assisted her father in deceiving audiences with phantasmagoria and how gradually her health has weakened. In the style of the books of Essie Fox and Wilkie Collins, Lucy’s plight worsens with each episode we read.

At times, the novel seems too gratuitous for me, but others will relish the descriptions of a series of violent murders of young women in London, 40 years before Jack the Ripper. This is an intense, captivating book to read and the ending, though not really a surprise, was very satisfying.

The Pierced Heart can be purchased on Amazon UK

Death and Dominion by Carol Hedges

Dominion

This sensational novel has everything; passion, mystery, love, disappointment and humour.  A devastatingly handsome man, Mr Mark Hawksley, who is not all he seems, impresses all he encounters, from the no-nonsense northern factory owner, Mr Bulstrode, to the russet haired, penniless lady’s companion, Belinda Kite, just arrived in London and hungry for all it offers.

As Bulstrode and other men of substance are pulled into the web of a promised fortune and Belinda finds opportunities for happiness and material goods, two other couples are bitter and despondent.  As if nothing worse could happen, poison enters their homes, but who is the culprit?  Detecting the crime is the responsibility of Detective Inspector Stride and Detective Sergeant Cully, whom you may have met before in Diamonds and Dust or Honour and Obey, where they proved themselves to be honourable, hard working men, eager to find the truth.  But they have another case to solve.  All over London Biblical condemnations such as, “Thou shalt not worship graven images,” are appearing, written in bright red paint and the gutter press have seized upon this to comment that while London is on the verge of anarchy, the police force are unable to cope.

The transition between the actions and emotions of our flawed heroine, Belinda and the gradual revelations about the criminal cases investigated by the two policemen are interwoven seamlessly as the story flows to a just conclusion.  Those who have done wrong, suffer suitable punishment, the good are rewarded and a few, whom we can’t help liking despite their misdemeanours, have the chance to set out on a new course of life.

Once again, Carol Hedges has immersed us in the murky but fascinating world of Victorian London with her atmospheric descriptions and superb characterisation.  A must read book!

Honour and Obey by Carol Hedges

Honour

Do you want to find yourself walking the streets of Victorian London on a night of “relentless rain” seeing people hurrying back to their semi-detached villas and tiny hovels, a place where evil and kindness stand side by side?   Then this is the book for you.

“Honour and Obey” is packed with richly drawn characters with fascinating names.  Who could not wish to make the acquaintance of Lobelia and Hyacinth Clout, as they make their way to the church hall of Rev. Ezra Bittersplit, where they will listen to a talk about the Overseas Missionary Society for the Conversion of African Heathens, given by Eustacia Mullygrub?

Throughout the book, Detective Inspector Leo Stride and his assistant Detective Sergeant Jack Cully are in pursuit of a dastardly killer who seeks out innocent young women as his prey.  So often they miss the murderer by seconds without realising it and they are hampered by the lurid exaggeration of the crimes in the popular press.

Parallel to the investigation, three young women seek happiness.  Hyacinth, after a life of drudgery with her mother now seeks independence from her demanding sister Lobelia, while Portia Mullygrub also wishes to leave the family home where she works tirelessly as her mother’s secretary, in order to begin married life with her fiancé.  Meanwhile, penniless Emily Benet just wants to survive in a cruel world.

This witty novel is a delicious feast of Victorian delights; the gruesome murders, foundlings and workhouse families, do-gooders and honest hard working individuals.  The streets, houses, shops and hospital dissection room are all described in vivid detail and the complex plot interwoven seamlessly.  I can highly recommend “Honour and Obey” as a Christmas treat, but you will find it very hard to put down!