While recovering from a bout of typhus, Detective Inspector Jeremy Faro missed the notorious “Gruesome Convent Murders”, a pair of women from a nearby convent, strangled separately. When he returns to work, he is entreated to re-open the case – the man who is about to be executed has confessed to the first killing but swears on his immortal soul that he had nothing to do with the second one. As Faro starts to believe him, he, and his medical student stepson investigate who else might have been involved. As Faro pursues a new romance, threats start to emerge from the Edinburgh alleyways…
Alanna Knight has written over forty books, including fifteen featuring Inspector Faro. Why did I pick one of these – this is the first – to read? Well, it’s a historical mystery, a new era for me… OK, it was 90p on Kindle. Happy now? But was it a worthwhile investment?
First off, I’m going to be even vaguer than normal on the plot details, as any hints I drop might lead a reader to the murderer, so forgive me for that. Plotwise, I feel that somehow I ought to be picking holes in it and pointing out that the murderer was predictable, but I was fooled, especially by a very brief bit of misdirection towards the end of the book – possibly not deliberate but I thought there was going to be a very nasty twist at one point. The clues are there to be spotted and there are some nice red herrings. On the downside, there probably aren’t enough suspects and one could say that the critical clue comes quite late, but there are some clear indications (which I missed completely) earlier in the narrative.
As for the writing, I was rather absorbed by this one – as I mentioned in my last review, I had trouble concentrating on The Dead Room, as I had too many other things going on to really focus on it – I could probably say the same for The Adventure Of The Illustrious Client, but I found the time to read this in about four sittings, the last one reading the last half of the book in one go. It’s not a long read, but I found it quite the page-turner. I liked the two protagonists – Faro, while not the most content soul in the world, isn’t a depressive like others of his ilk would be. In fact, the father-son relationship reminded me a bit of the Baers from The Dead Room – supportive and both intelligent. Rather nice, really.
One thing that’s worth pointing out is that Knight doesn’t dwell on the Victoriana. To be honest, there isn’t an awful lot here that indicates the story is set in the past – there’s a datedness to some of the casual activities, but not a lot else. If you want foggy alleyways and cloaked killers, then look elsewhere. This is a good thing, for the most part, as it enables the plot to dodge the obvious clichés, but a little bit more rooting in the period might have been nice. Also, the literary readers out there will spot the title as a stage direction from Macbeth, but there’s little about The Scottish Play on show here.
So, to sum up, a rather charming little mystery. It’s quite a simple little thing, but for 90p, you could do a lot worse than try out this book. As the cheap Brother Athelstan books have vanished from Kindle – Boo! – if you’re looking for a bargain, you could do a lot worse that this one – and the next six or so are cheap as well!