I’m thrilled to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Dark Dawn over Steep House by M. R. C. Kasasian, the fifth instalment in the bestselling The Gower Street Detective series. You can find my review of this fantastic read below.
About the Book
London, 1884. Sidney Grice – London’s foremost personal detective – is restless. Having filed his latest case under “S” for “Still to Be Solved”, he has returned to his book, A Brief History of Doorstep Whitening in Preston, to await further inspiration. His ward, March Middleton, remains determined to uncover the truth. Geraldine Hockaday, the daughter of a respected naval captain, was outraged on the murky streets of Limehouse. Yet her attacker is still on the loose. But then a chance encounter in an overcrowded cafe brings a new victim to light, and it seems clear March and Grice are on the trail of a serial offender. A trail that will lead them to the dining room of a Prussian Prince, the dingy hangout of an Armenian gangster, and the shadowy ruin of a once-loved family home, Steep House….
|Format:||Hardcover||Publisher:||Head of Zeus||Pages:||473|
|Publication:||1st June 2017||Genre:||Historical Mystery|
Find Dark Dawn over Steep House on Goodreads
I’ve been aware of this series for some time (especially their gorgeous covers) but never got around to reading one although I’m a great fan of historical mysteries. Therefore, I was delighted to be given the opportunity by Clare at Head of Zeus to read the latest in the series, Dark Dawn over Steep House. Having done so, I’ve now added all four of the previous books in the series to my wishlist!
The story is narrated by March Middleton, goddaughter of Sidney Grice. March also acts as chronicler of Grice’s cases in the manner of Dr John Watson for Sherlock Holmes. In fact, Grice holds a similarly low opinion of March’s literary efforts as does Holmes of Watson’s. Grice has the peculiar mannerisms, pedantic mode of speech and keen powers of observation and deduction worthy of his fictional counterpart. He is also socially inept, rude, possesses odd phobias and is apt to pounce on any lazy use of figurative speech. However, he is also the man to have in a crisis not least of which because of his superior hearing and sense of smell and seemingly endless range of canes adapted for use as weapons, mechanical devices and goodness knows what else.
I found some of Grice’s bon mots laugh out loud funny. When a client describes having fallen into an opium-fuelled stupor during an assault as being ‘almost asleep but still aware of what was going on’, he quips, ‘Like an evening at the opera.’
March acts as the yin to Grice’s yang being equipped with the normal social graces. She is plucky, resourceful and independent and being a woman, she can gain access to people and situations that Grice cannot (she has no aversion to the colour green). Furthermore, unlike her illustrious godfather, she can hold a conversation with someone without being rude to them but she has a sharp tongue when needed. Marsh has experienced tragedy in her life and has survived some perilous encounters in previous cases.
There are intriguing and enticing references to these cases scattered throughout the book but, sadly, no further information on the Great Frog Disaster of 1878 mentioned in the Goodreads blurb. I fear that, like the Giant Rat of Sumatra in the Sherlock Holmes tale ‘The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire’, this is ‘a story for which the world is not yet prepared’.
I loved the esoteric literary jokes such as the chapter entitled ‘The Empty House’ which, as Sherlock Holmes aficionados will know, is the title of one of his adventures. There is a brilliant scene where Sidney and March visit the office of solicitor, Silas Spry, and find his underemployed clerk whiling away his time by writing a novel. Glancing at the manuscript, they are unimpressed by it and advise him to write about something he knows instead.
‘I only know about being a clerk and not a very good one at that,’ he snuffled. ‘Who would be interested in the diary of a nobody?’*
[Finally, this last example is for those already lucky enough to own a copy of the book. Out of curiosity, March reads the first page of the clerk’s manuscript: ‘There was a message engraved in the locket,’ I read aloud. ‘That is not a very exciting beginning.’ Now turn back to Chapter 1 of your copy of the book. ]
The writing captures the atmosphere of the period and provided me with some new words to add to my vocabulary: ‘eldritch’ meaning weird, sinister or ghostly; and ‘sough’ meaning a whispering sound.
So by now you’re probably thinking this book is rather light-hearted, a bit too clever for its own good and a not very compelling murder mystery. Well, you’re wrong because as the book progresses it gets much darker, in fact fairly gruesome in places. The reader is transported to the seamy, squalid underbelly of 19th century London – its rat-infested slums, maze-like alleys, murky side streets and seedy opium dens ruled by gangs and criminals prepared to stop at nothing to protect their patch. And treachery, immorality and double-dealing reside behind the gentile facades of well-to-do London houses as well.
Dark Dawn over Steep House will bring you face to face with murder, kidnap, suicide, disfigurement and depravity. You’ll soon be immersed in the twists and turns of an intricately plotted mystery where nothing and no-one should be taken at face value. Grice and Marsh are not infallible and as they close in on the perpetrator there are mistakes whose consequences must be lived with for ever.
I found the mixture of quirky humour, eccentric characters and compelling plot really entertaining and I hope there will be another outing for Sidney Grice and March Middleton soon. In the meantime, I shall be catching up with the earlier books in the series.
I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Head of Zeus, in return for an honest review.
*The Diary of a Nobody by George & Weedon Grossmith
In three words: Clever, suspenseful, mystery
Try something similar…The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh (click here to read my review)
About the Author
Martin Kasasian was raised in Lancashire. He has had careers as varied as a factory hand, wine waiter, veterinary assistant, fairground worker and dentist. He lives with his wife, in Suffolk in the summer and in Malta in the winter