Ford’s Theatre, Washington DC, April 15, 1865. The date and location may be familiar to you. Captain Matthew Grand is in attendance as President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Grand pursues Booth into an alley, where he is knocked unconscious by an associate of Booth. Determined to seek justice, Grand follows his only lead to his assailant’s identity – a cufflink that leads to London.
Jim Batchelor is a journalist – albeit a not too successful one – working in London. On the same night that Lincoln is murdered, Batchelor stumbles upon a corpse. Effie was a prostitute who he had met earlier that evening, now a victim of the Haymarket Strangler.
As Grand and Batchelor’s paths cross, they find themselves hunting two killers. But can the men work together to catch them before they kill again?
M J Trow is a prolific writer, with three series under his belt. One featuring a certain Inspector Lestrade, one with a teacher as the sleuth and one featuring Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe – the most recent of which, Crimson Rose, I reviewed a while ago. This marks the start of the Grand and Batchelor series (which does telegraph the final scene just a tad) and it’s a set-up with potential. With Grand as an American visiting London for the first time, it provides a rich contrast between the two cultures in this era. The down-on-his-luck Batchelor provides an alternative voice as he struggles to find work – and money – before being picked to find out more about Grand’s intentions in London.
As with the Marlowe book, the mysteries aren’t really clued ones – like many mysteries, it’s more of a guessing game. That is to say, if there were clues, then I missed them, and our sleuths weren’t nice enough to tell me what I’d missed. But the story moves along nicely with an air of menace from both the killers.
I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the two murderers have very little to do with each other. I did think initially that it would take something impressive to link an accomplice to a Presidential assassin to a prostitute murderer in London but it rapidly becomes clear that there is no intention to even suggest a link. But the two stories dovetail well, Victorian London (and Washington) are brought to vibrant life and keep the reader entertained to the end.
So a promising start to a series – I look forward to reading more. Well worth a look.
This copy was provided by the publishers, Severn House, via Netgalley.