About 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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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
About 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)