After being hired by a young woman to investigate the murder of her father, personal detective Sidney Grice is, once again, on the trail of a Victorian criminal. Nathan Mortlake, has been found slaughtered in his bed in a house that would rival the Tower of London for security measures. What makes this even more interesting is that, ten years before, Nathan’s uncle, aunt and servants were butchered in their sleep at the same house. Is this a co-incidence or has the murderer returned to continue their killing spree?
As a fan of Victorian crime fiction, I had come across M. R. C. Kasasian’s Gower Street Detective series before but had never actually read any of them. I was pleased, therefore, to be given the opportunity to read the fourth book in the collection, The Secrets of Gaslight Lane. Whenever I read a book that it not the first in a series, I am always apprehensive: will I understand the characters’ backstory and will there be past plots referred to that will spoil my reading of any of the previous texts? Thankfully, the author addresses this issue and, within a few chapters, I felt I knew enough about Sidney Grice and March Middleton to fully enjoy the story.
In the two main characters, we have complete polar opposites. Sidney Grice is a thoroughly unlikeable man with very few redeeming features whereas March Middleton is the very antithesis of a Victorian heroine. With a penchant for gin, cigarettes and the frequenting of public houses, Grice’s goddaughter is very much the modern woman. The two characters work well together, however, and the ending of the book has made me want to discover more about their past lives before they came to live and work together.
Sometimes, a period crime novel can fall into the trap of making the plot slightly too convoluted. In The Secrets of Gaslight Lane, however, the author has succeeded in building a complex plot and a simple yet realistic solution. As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously quoted, “…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth…” This is certainly true about the murders in this book – a ‘locked room’ mystery can always be explained in a much less baffling way.
My only negative concerning this book is that it took me a long time to warm to the cantankerous Sidney Grice and I acknowledge that, if I had read the previous books, this would not be the case.
If you are a fan of Victorian crime fiction and authors such as Alex Grecian and Linda Stratmann, then this book is highly recommended. The Secrets of Gaslight Lane is published on 2nd June 2016 and can be purchased from Amazon.
Thank you to Net Galley and Head of Zeus for an advance copy.