#BlogTour #BookReview The Dublin Railway Murder by Thomas Morris @HarvillSecker @VintageBooks @RandomTTours

Dublin Railway Murders BT Poster

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Dublin Railway Murder by Thomas Morris. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Vintage for my digital review copy.

Dublin Graphic 1About the Book

Dublin, November 1856: George Little, the chief cashier of the Broadstone railway terminus, is found dead, lying in a pool of
blood beneath his desk.

He has been savagely beaten, his head almost severed; there is no sign of a murder weapon, and the office door is locked, apparently from the inside. Thousands of pounds in gold and silver are left untouched at the scene of the crime.

Augustus Guy, Ireland’s most experienced detective, teams up with Dublin’s leading lawyer to investigate the murder. But the mystery defies all explanation, and two celebrated sleuths sent by Scotland Yard soon return to London, baffled.

Five suspects are arrested then released, with every step of the salacious case followed by the press, clamouring for answers. But then a local woman comes forward, claiming to know the murderer….

Format: Hardcover (384 pages)             Publisher: Harvill Secker
Publication date: 11th November 2021 Genre: True Crime, Mystery

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My Review

In The Dublin Railway Murder, the author pieces together the story of an 1856 murder mystery that gripped the population of Dublin, and beyond.  The book is a meticulously researched true crime story based on contemporary accounts, original police interviews and other documents unearthed from the archives by the author.

The murder of George Little is in essence a locked-room murder mystery that could have come straight off the pages of an Agatha Christie novel, but didn’t because it actually happened. However, don’t expect a ‘whodunnit’ because a definitive outcome is not necessarily the way things happen in real life.

The book contains a massive amount of detail, not just about the course of the investigation and the trial, but also about life in Victorian Dublin. Although the social history was fascinating, at times it did threaten to dominate the unfolding story. Having said that, I did learn an awful lot about the operation of a Victorian railway, a seemingly much more complicated and bureaucratic process than simply transporting people and goods from A to B.

The book has a large cast of characters (listed at the beginning of the book) some of whom make only a brief appearance and, although forming part of the investigation, don’t contribute much to the eventual outcome.  What I did find astonishing was the initially slapdash approach to the investigation, such as not securing the crime scene and allowing members of the public and press to wander in and out. On the other hand, I was amazed at the efforts the police went to in the attempt to recover key items of evidence, including having a canal drained and searching in some extremely unsalubrious places.

My favourite parts of the book were the chapters describing the trial of the individual charged with the crime. There was a real sense of the frenzied atmosphere around the proceedings with the press and public jostling for places in the gallery, as well as the barristers for the defence and the prosecution competing with each other to uncover – or mitigate – the more damaging revelations, even to make the most amusing quip. These sections also highlighted aspects of the legal process we would find quite puzzling today, such as the absence of a witness box and the item that was used instead.

The Dublin Railway Murder has been likened to Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and in fact Whicher does make a fleeting appearance in the book. I felt I would have liked to get to know some of the main characters, such as Superintendent Augustus Guy, just a little bit more, and perhaps see things from their point of view. And, as the author acknowledges towards the end of the book, the emotional impact of the murder on the victim’s family, which would be much more of a focus in a similar situation today, was largely ignored at the time.

The Dublin Railway Murder will definitely appeal to fans of historical true crime and those who like to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of past times.

In three words: Detailed, meticulous, absorbing

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Thomas Morris_Credit Charlotte Machin (cleared for jacket and publicity)About the Author

Thomas Morris is a writer and historian. His first book, The Matter of the Heart (Bodley Head, 2017), a critically-acclaimed history of cardiac surgery, won a Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for non-fiction. He is also the author of The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth (Bantam, 2018). He was previously a BBC radio producer for 18 years, and his freelance journalism has appeared in publications including The Times, The Lancet and the TLS.

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#BookReview The Red Monarch by Bella Ellis @hodderbooks

The Red MonarchAbout the Book

The Brontë sisters’ first poetry collection has just been published, potentially marking an end to their careers as amateur detectors, when Anne receives a letter from her friend Lydia Robinson.

Lydia has eloped with a young actor, Harry Roxby, and following her disinheritance, the couple been living in poverty in London. Harry has become embroiled with a criminal gang and is in terrible danger after allegedly losing something very valuable that he was meant to deliver to their leader. The desperate and heavily pregnant Lydia has a week to return what her husband supposedly stole, or he will be killed. She knows there are few people who she can turn to in this time of need, but the sisters agree to help Lydia, beginning a race against time to save Harry’s life.

In doing so, our intrepid sisters come face to face with a terrifying adversary whom even the toughest of the slum-dwellers are afraid of…The Red Monarch.

Format: Hardcover (352 pages)             Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 18th November 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime, Mystery

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My Review

In The Red Monarch the Brontë sisters, along with their brother Branwell, leave their beloved Yorkshire Moors for the much less salubrious streets of Victorian London. As well as viewing it as a mission of mercy there is also, they have to admit, the thrill of having a new case to investigate and the prospect of  ‘adventure aplenty and fiendishly difficult riddles to be solved’. Sounds good to me, and so it turns out.

Charlotte, as the last surviving sister, is once again given the role of custodian of the accounts of their hitherto unknown adventures as ‘lady detectorists’. There is a poignant moment in the book when Anne reassures Charlotte, ‘We shall always be at your side, irritating your every thought always, I swear it’ causing Charlotte to shudder ‘as if someone had just walked over her grave… an unwelcome message delivered from an uncertain future’.

As in the two previous books – The Vanished Bride and The Diabolical Bones – the individual characters of the siblings are carefully drawn. Indeed, the sisters themselves recognise one another’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to their role as investigators of crime. Anne’s gift, in Charlotte’s words, is ‘to intuit revelations that are invaluable’, whilst Anne praises Charlotte’s ‘bravery and cleverness’. Emily is the adventurer of the trio, as she soon proves. And Branwell? Well, he comes in useful as a protector when he’s able to lift himself from his current melancholy state, the result of an unsuccessful (real life) love affair.

The bond between the sisters is touching, Charlotte declaring at one point ‘we are never alone when we have one another’. Their other shared passion is, of course, writing although at this point in their lives they are yet to write the novels that will make them famous and are eagerly awaiting the first review of their volume of poetry. Every author knows what that’s like! In one memorable scene Charlotte encounters a famous (male) writer who is dismissive of her literary ambitions. Fortunately, she receives a more sympathetic and encouraging response from a female novelist quite famous in her day but now, I suspect, little known. The said lady novelist proves a useful ally as well.

I had fun spotting allusions to people or places in the Brontë sisters’ novels, including one which refers to a misreading of the title of one of the sister’s poems. Full disclosure: I had to Google that one and I’m sure there were others that I missed! Such references demonstrate the author’s extensive knowledge of, and obvious affection for, the Brontës and their works, as well as acting as little gifts for the observant reader.

Of course there is also an intriguing mystery to be solved that involves Emily, Charlotte, Anne and Branwell exploring ‘the dark and undoubtedly dangerous underworld of the grimmest and most violent parts of the city’. I’ll say. What they uncover is a web of evil and depravity that reaches into the highest echelons of society.

The Red Monarch is another terrific instalment in what has become one of my favourite historical mystery series. It’s a book (and a series) I can highly recommended for fans of historical mysteries or of the Brontës.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton via NetGalley. You can read more reviews of The Red Monarch by following the book bloggers taking part in the blog tour, such as this review by Steph at Steph’s Book Blog or this one by Eva at Novel Deelights.

In three words: Intriguing, suspenseful, atmospheric

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Rowan ColemanAbout the Author

Rowan Coleman is the Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of sixteen novels including the Richard and Judy pick The Memory Book and the Zoe Ball bookclub choice, The Summer of Impossible Things.

Rowan also writes the Brontë Mysteries under the name Bella Ellis, a series that imagines that before they were world renowned novelists the Bronte sisters were amateur sleuths. These include The Vanished Bride, The Diabolical Bones and The Red Monarch with more on the way in 2022.  (Photo: Goodreads/Bio: Author website)

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