#BookReview Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden

Under A Veiled MoonAbout the Book

September 1878. One night, as the pleasure boat the Princess Alice makes her daily trip up the Thames, she collides with the Bywell Castle, a huge iron-hulled collier. The Princess Alice shears apart, throwing all 600 passengers into the river; only 130 survive. It is the worst maritime disaster London has ever seen, and early clues point to sabotage by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who believe violence is the path to restoring Irish Home Rule.

For Scotland Yard Inspector Michael Corravan, born in Ireland and adopted by the Irish Doyle family, the case presents a challenge. Accused by the Home Office of willfully disregarding the obvious conclusion, and berated by his Irish friends for bowing to prejudice, Corravan doggedly pursues the truth, knowing that if the Princess Alice disaster is pinned on the IRB hopes for Home Rule could be dashed forever.

Corrovan’s dilemma is compounded by Colin, the youngest Doyle, who has joined James McCabe’s Irish gang. As violence in Whitechapel rises, Corravan strikes a deal with McCabe to get Colin out of harm’s way. But unbeknownst to Corravan, Colin bears longstanding resentments against his adopted brother and scorns his help.

As the newspapers link the IRB to further accidents, London threatens to devolve into terror and chaos. With the help of his young colleague, the loyal Mr. Stiles, and his friend Belinda Gale, Corravan uncovers the harrowing truth – one that will shake his faith in his countrymen, the law, and himself.

Format: ebook (336 pages)                Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication date: 11th October 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

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My Review

Under a Veiled Moon is the second in Karen Odden’s Inspector Michael Corravan historical mystery series, the follow-up to Down a Dark River, a book I very much enjoyed. In fact, I ended my review of that book by saying I hoped it was the first of many cases for Corravan so it was a pleasure to be reunited with him, as well as other characters from the first book such as his former partner, the resourceful and diligent Gordon Stiles, his just a little bit more than a friend, novelist Belinda Gale, and the Doyle family who took him in many years before. Belinda is one of my favourite characters. She’s an independent woman who has made her own way in the world and who now has connections with influential figures in London society. Perhaps her greatest gift though is her understanding of Corravan’s needs – and not just his physical ones either. As he remarks at one point, ‘It certainly wasn’t the first time she had presented me with an insight that steered an entire investigation into a channel I hadn’t explored’.  (Notice the river-related metaphors by the way?)

Once again, the reader gets a clear sense of Corravan the policeman – determined, resilient and with a strong sense of justice. As he says himself, ‘My persistance usually yielded results.’  But we also get an insight into the man he has been, which includes pickpocket, prize-fighter and dockhand. His past life has not been without tragedy and he has regrets about things he has done, or failed to do. All this makes him a satisfyingly well-rounded character. Corravan’s Irish heritage also forms an important part of the story given that the political situation relating to Ireland is a key element of the book’s plot.

The real life collision of the Princess Alice pleasure boat with the collier Bywell Castle, which resulted in many fatalities, forms one strand of a story into which the author weaves political intrigue, racial prejudice, gang warfare and acts of breathtaking wickedness carried out as a result of a perverted philosophy.

As before, the River Thames plays a key role in the book, its filthy, murky waters providing an apt metaphor for the seedy goings on in the sprawling city through which it flows. It plays an instrumental role as well, with knowledge of its tidal ebbs and flows proving crucial to events. One memorable and rather moving scene sees Corravan take to the river to perform a particularly tragic homecoming. The vivid descriptions of the thoroughfares and alleyways of London – in particular Whitechapel – and of the sights, sounds and smells (ugh) of the city all help to create a great sense of place.  You wouldn’t necessarily want to have lived there yourself but you can definitely imagine what it would have been like for those who did.

If you love historical mysteries with an intricate plot and authentic period atmosphere, then I have no hesitation in recommending Under a Veiled Moon. Actually, I do; read Down a Dark River first.  To my delight, the book’s last line suggests more cases – and challenges- lie ahead for Corravan, and possibly an answer to a question that has haunted him.

My thanks to the author for my digital review copy.

In three words: Atmospheric, intriguing, assured

Try something similar: Death Makes No Distinction by Lucienne Boyce

Karen OddenAbout the Author

Karen Odden earned her PhD in English from New York University and subsequently taught literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays to numerous books and journals, written introductions for Victorian novels in the Barnes & Noble classics series, and edited for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture (Cambridge UP). Her previous novels, also set in 1870s London, have won awards for historical fiction and mystery. A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and the recipient of a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Karen lives in Arizona with her family and her rescue beagle Rosy. (Photo: Author website)

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#BlogTour #BookReview Blackstone Fell by Martin Edwards

BLOG TOUR BANNER_BFWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Blackstone Fell by Martin Edwards. My thanks to Sophie at Ransom PR for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Head of Zeus for my digital review copy via NetGalley. Do hop over to Instagram and check out the post by my tour buddy for today, Jan at Jan_is_reading.

Blackstone FellAbout the Book

Yorkshire, 1606. A man vanishes from a locked gatehouse in a remote village. 300 years later, it happens again.

Autumn 1930. Journalist Nell Fagan knows there’s only one person who can get to the bottom of this mystery: Rachael Savernake. But someone wants Nell dead, and soon, while investigating a series of recent deaths at Blackstone Sanatorium, she’s missing entirely.

Looking for answers, Rachel travels to lonely Blackstone Fell, with its eerie moor, deadly waters and sinister tower. With help from Jacob Flint – who’s determined to expose a fraudulent medium at a séance – Rachel will risk her life to bring an end to the disappearances…

Format: Hardback (416 pages)             Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication date: 1st September 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime

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My Review

Blackstone Fell is the third book in Martin Edwards’s Rachel Savernake series. I haven’t read either of the earlier books in the series – Gallows Court and Mortmain Hall – but I don’t think it is essential to have done so in order to enjoy Blackstone Fell. If anything waiting for the first appearance in person of Rachel Savernake, having had snippets of information about her from other characters, only increased my curiosity. And wasn’t it worth the wait because she makes a fascinating central character, a sort of female Sherlock Holmes (but without the pipe).

Rachel is a rich young woman whose early life is shrouded in mystery (although it will be more familiar to readers of the earlier books). As Rachel admits, she loves the thrill of the unexpected. ‘Puzzles, mysteries – the more outlandish, the better.’ She guards her privacy with ‘a ruthless zeal’ and is a formidable adversary.  The members of Rachel’s household – Martha Trueman, Martha’s brother Clifford and Clifford’s wife Hetty – are devoted to her; not so much servants as a ‘tight-knit cabal’. Rachel is good at utilising their talents as part of her investigations whether that’s gathering gossip or conducting a little subterfuge.

I confess it took me a while to familiarise myself with the different inhabitants of Blackstone Fell and understand the layout of the village. (The book contains a map but this wasn’t included in my advance digital copy.) Safe to say there are the usual features of small village life: gossip, petty rivalries and tall stories exchanged at the bar of the public house.

The book has a number of different strands including those inexplicable disappearances from Blackstone Lodge, efforts to expose a medium who is preying upon the loved ones of the deceased and a series of deaths from natural causes (or were they?) at a local sanatorium.  Throw in some religous zealotry, infidelity, poison pen letters, financial skulduggery, greed and thwarted ambition, and you have a heady mix all set against the backdrop of a remote location.  ‘The brooding moors, the deadly marsh, Blackstone Leap.’

Blackstone Fell contains many of the elements of classic crime fiction including a denoument at which, with all the suspects gathered together, Rachel reveals the solutions to what turn out to be more than one mystery.  A neat touch is the addition of a ‘cluefinder’ at the end of the book (apparently all the fashion during the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of detective fiction) in which the author identifies the pages on which clues appeared. Well done if you spotted any of these because most of them passed me by, but then I don’t have the observational skills, breadth of knowledge or deductive ability of Rachel Savernake.

Blackstone Fell will appeal to fans of classic crime fiction (think Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers),  those who like to be immersed in the milieu of an earlier age and who enjoy the challenge of unravelling an intricate plot.

In three words: Intricate, clever, intriguing

Try something similar: Dark Dawn Over Steep House by M.R.C. Kasasian

Martin EdwardsAbout the Author

Martin Edwards has won the Edgar, Agatha, H.R.F. Keating, Macavity, Poirot and Dagger awards as well as being shortlisted for the Theakston’s Prize.  He is President of the Detection Club, a former Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and consultant to the British Library’s bestselling crime classics series. In 2020 he was awarded the Diamond Dagger for his outstanding contribution to crime fiction.

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