When the body of a young boy is found at Hungerford Stairs close to the River Thames, Charles Dickens is relieved to find that is not the missing child he has been searching for. Presumed drowned, Superintendent Jones of Bow Street soon has a murder case on his hands when a different cause of death is discovered. After more bodies are found, the detective’s worst fears are realised – they have a serial killer on their hands.
Death at Hungerford Stairs is the second book to feature the author Charles Dickens as one of the main characters, the first being The Murder of Patience Brooke. In the previous book, I was particularly impressed with how the author managed to paint a vivid picture of early-Victorian London, especially the more downtrodden areas. This has continued in the second book, making you feel that you are actually walking the London streets.
I like, again, how the author has merged fact with fiction, with true aspects of Dickens’ life providing an air of authenticity to the plot. Dickens is written as a generous man, keen to help the underprivileged and the down at heel, the references to his early life possibly providing a reason for his benevolence. There is a rich supporting cast, providing some tragic as well as some humorous moments.
The hunt for a child killer could be a difficult subject matter, but the author handles it in an informative yet sensitive way, culminating in a very different motive and culprit to most books of this genre. Although there were a few hints dropped throughout the book, the ending was still a surprise – a clever one at that.
I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next in the series.