#BookReview Down a Dark River (Inspector Corravan #1) by Karen Odden @crookedlanebks @karen_odden

Down A Dark RiverAbout the Book

London, 1878. One April morning, a small boat bearing a young woman’s corpse floats down the murky waters of the Thames. When the victim is identified as Rose Albert, daughter of a prominent judge, the Scotland Yard director gives the case to Michael Corravan, one of the only Senior Inspectors remaining after a corruption scandal the previous autumn left the division in ruins. Reluctantly, Corravan abandons his ongoing case, a search for the missing wife of a shipping magnate, handing it over to his young colleague, Mr. Stiles.

An Irish former bare-knuckles boxer and dockworker from London’s seedy East End, Corravan has good street sense and an inspector’s knack for digging up clues. But he’s confounded when, a week later, a second woman is found dead in a rowboat, and then a third. The dead women seem to have no connection whatsoever. Meanwhile, Mr. Stiles makes an alarming discovery: the shipping magnate’s missing wife, Mrs. Beckford, may not have fled her house because she was insane, as her husband claims, and Mr. Beckford may not be the successful man of business that he appears to be.

Slowly, it becomes clear that the river murders and the case of Mrs. Beckford may be linked through some terrible act of injustice in the past—for which someone has vowed a brutal vengeance. Now, with the newspapers once again trumpeting the Yard’s failures, Corravan must dredge up the truth—before London devolves into a state of panic and before the killer claims another innocent victim.

Format: ebook (336 pages)                   Publisher: Crooked Lane
Publication date: 9th November 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime, Mystery

Find Down a Dark River (Inspector Corravan #1) on Goodreads

Purchase links
Amazon UK
Link provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

As regular followers of my blog will know, I love a good historical crime mystery; even better if it’s part of a series. (You can find some of my favourites here.) Unfortunately, I seem to make a habit of discovering series that have been going for some time – Sarah Hawkswood’s Bradecote and Catchpoll series, I’m looking at you – so I’m delighted to be in at the beginning of what looks like a terrific new series.

In Michael (Mickey) Corravan Karen Odden has created an attractively multi-faceted character. He has a strong sense of justice, is handy in a fight (thanks to his earlier experiences as a prize-fighter) and has worked his way up from humble beginnings to the rank of Senior Inspector at Scotland Yard, even if he sometimes feels he doesn’t fit in. ‘The Yard was changing.  The whole bloody world was changing. But I wasn’t sure I had it in me to be different than I was.‘ He has some inner demons too, which to my mind only adds to his attractiveness as a character. At one point the behaviour of another character leads him to reflect, ‘There was something about her desperation that edged too close to memories that I’d rather let lie‘. I”ll admit to developing a bit of a crush on Corravan although I’m conscious that will bring me a formidable opponent in the person of Mrs Belinda Gale. A successful novelist and playwright, she’s Corravan’s Thursday night paramour but also the person who knows him best, even if he occasionally finds her perceptive scrutiny uncomfortable. ‘I loved Belinda – of course I did. But she liked to haul thoughts and feelings out into the light to examine them, and sometimes mine were wily and furtive and wanted to be left alone in the dark.’

In the book, the Thames is not just means of transport or trade but a metaphor for all that’s murky and malevolent in London society. As Corravan observes of the Thames, ‘I say it’s mostly a cesspool, a receptacle for the entire city’s detritus, complete with entrails and rotting corpses..it’s easy to imagine the Thames as a live serpent, filthy and slithering at my back‘. Definitely a dark river then. And it’s not only the river that is dark. The book features some particularly unpleasant (male) characters whose sense of entitlement makes them believe they are above the law and free to abuse others with impunity. Bribes, favours and convenient looks the other way are their currency. Remind you of anything?

The skilfully crafted plot has plenty of twists and turns with events described in such a way that I felt as if I was looking over Corravan’s shoulder as he tries to puzzle things out. Not for nothing is he described as ‘like a dog with a bone’. I also loved the cast of secondary characters, such as Corravan’s diligent colleague, Stiles, his wise doctor friend, James, and young Harry who Corravan is persuaded to take under his wing and whose eclectic knowledge proves more useful than he might have imagined.

I thought Down A Dark River was terrific and I want to thank Karen for offering me a review copy and for introducing me to Corravan. I sincerely hope this will be the first of many more cases for him. If you’re a fan of historical crime mysteries, I can heartily recommend Down A Dark River.

In three words: Atmospheric, ingenious, suspenseful

Try something similar: Death Makes No Distinction by Lucienne Boyce

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Karen OddenAbout the Author

Karen received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and subsequently taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her first novel, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today bestseller and A Dangerous Duet and A Trace of Deceit have won awards for historical mystery and historical fiction. Her fourth mystery, Down a Dark River, will be available November 9, 2021. (Bio: Goodreads/Photo: Author website)

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3 thoughts on “#BookReview Down a Dark River (Inspector Corravan #1) by Karen Odden @crookedlanebks @karen_odden

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