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on 21 February 2010
A rollicking story set in London in the 1840s featuring Pyke, the head of the newly formed Detective Branch, who is tasked with investigating the murder of three people killed during a robbery at a pawnbroker's. The fact that Pyke recognises one of the victims, a man who has links with Pyke's own criminal past, is only the first hurdle on a case that threatens to destroy him. Pepper's novel is brimming with period detail, some of it familiar but much of it fresh, and depicts a time when the city was mushrooming with the influx of workers, many from Ireland. It's de rigueur for detectives to be flawed and act as mavericks and Pepper follows that template but skilfully makes Pyke a fully believable hero of his time. Facing corruption and double-dealing on all sides and loss and upheaval in his personal life, Pyke captures our sympathy. This is the fourth of Pepper's novels and the first was short-listed for the CWA New Blood Dagger.
Cath Staincliffe
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on 6 March 2010
This is the fourth Pyke novel and Andrew Pepper paints his atmospheric picture in full detail of Victorian London.He seems to know every alley and back street like the back of his hand as he takes us into the pea-soupers of 1844.He has you griped with a story of high intrigue and low politics,brutal murder with cunning conspiracies.Pyke is at his voilent and vengeful best as he tries to uncover the connection between a robbery that leaves three people dead and the brutal murder of a Rector of a wealthy parish.His suspicions lead him to a dissolute former Catholic priest,rummers of devil worship and a old case that no one wants him to investigate.This is Andrew Pepper at the top of his game,roll on the next Pyke outing.
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on 20 September 2013
I love to follow the antics of the main character Pyke and will miss him when I read the last book of the series next. I thoroughly enjoyed this book but I did get a little confused with so many characters in the mainstream plot of the crime. Probably my age, took me a while to work out who had done what and who was good, who was a bad, so to speak.

That aside this is a fantastic tale. I can't help but like Pyke. I know he's a bit of a bad boy with a bit of a temper that he would not get away with today. However, he always tries to do what is good and only ever hurts the baddies.

My last little moan, what an ending?! Now that frustrated me a bit but you'd have to read it to know why. As I'm addicted to Pyke stories I will definitely be reading the next book but if you're not a fan of the series I think you might be a tad disappointed that you don't quite get the ending you need.

It's worth starting with book 1 and working your way through the series. You'll be glad you did.
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on 6 April 2011
Followers of Pyke will be familiar with his mix of persistance, doggedness and outright pychosis when it comes to solving crime. Picture Cornwell's Richard Sharpe as a copper rather than a soldier and you will have some idea as to Pyke's style of crime fighting.

Except for the first half of this book he was dangerously close to calm and sensible. 'Detective Branch' finds Pyke leading a team of policemen in a hunt to solve a triple murder. So his normal maverick style is curbed. For a while at least.

However events which I will not go into for spoiling reasons soon lead Pyke on to his more familiar and volatile path. As a result the book gathers momentum and interest! I don't know how Pepper will approach further stories but for me Pyke is at his best when he is sitting outside the pack, unloved and self loathing with nothing to lose but his burning sense of injustice and outrage.

However having said that the interplay between the detectives under him and Pyke's relationship with them was an interesting side story. Pyke's home situation doesn't get any better either. His relationship with his son is strained, his relationships with his neighbours downright hostile and even his newly bought pigs are causing him problems!

But that's what I love about Pyke he is a glorious screw up who despite his many character flaws always comes through and gets the job done but God help anyone who stands in his way!

In summary a little slower and less visceral than we are used to, but still a worthwhile read with some truly loathsome villains.
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on 15 June 2010
Together with James McGee's Matthew Hawkwood, Andrew Pepper's Pyke series represent the best crime novels of the era they cover.Whereas Hawkwood is an ex-soldier, Pyke comes from the moe seedy side of the Victorian underworld.The Pyke stories began in 1829 with the excellent Last Days of Newgate and has taken us through a turbulent time for Pyke and his wife (now tragically deceased) his son and his uncle Godfrey, and Pepper never fails to lead us through a vivid period atmosphere in the streets of London with fine action and suspense.Other reviews have set out brief outlines of the plot, and I would heartily recommend both Pepper and McGee's work for those who love their crime and mystery novels.
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on 14 February 2011
"He had been looking for his mother among the prostitutes and brothels of the Ratcliff Highway when they had seized him......."
Never having read one of Andrew Pepper's books before, I didn't know what to expect, but the opening words of this excellent book had me gripped right from the start. It paints a vivid portrait of the seamier side of mid 19th century London; the descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells stay with you long after you've read the book - which I did in one sitting as I couldn't put it down!
The plot starts out quite simply as a whodunnit, gradually getting more intricate as the whytheydunnit comes into play. There are enough red herrings to satisfy without overly confusing the issue, and a finely crafted conspiracy. The characters are well-drawn and believable. By the final chapter everything falls neatly - and satisfyingly - into place, with a suitably open ending to allow for another Pyke novel.
The book is also very well written and proofed, although that's only to be expected from a lecturer in English!
I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes mysteries, police procedurals, historical novels, conspiracies, good use of language, correct grammar and books of a decent length (372pp). I'm now going to read all of Pepper's earlier books - it's a joy to discover a new author!
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on 17 March 2011
Set in the early 1800's this detective thriller is as dark and gritty as its main character.
Pyke (no first name) has been introduced as starting life in an orphanage, turning to crime and then becoming a detective in Londons first ever detective branch.

You would imagine that due to his past Pyke would be of a dubious nature and this is highlighted by the fact that even his son is suspicious of Pyke but although some of his techniques for crime solving are less than perfect he gets his results no matter to whom they lead and shows loyalty only to the law inspite of his shady connections.

This story really makes you feel you are living in pre-victorian England, with its avid descriptions of the cesspits, smog and the tenements.
Focusing on political treachery that reaches throughout the police and government right down to the earliest and most evil gang bosses in London this story encompasses many twists that leave you wondering who the culprit(s) are.
The plot which starts with a murder in a church, talks about devil worship, corruption of the police and government and is also filled with Pykes personal anguish was well written and I for one cannot wait for the next Pyke investigation.
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on 2 December 2010
A gripping detective story that held my attention well through out. I liked how all the twists and turns and subplots which at first appeared unrelated tied together neatly at the end.

Set in London in the 1840s, the story has a wealth of detail which works well to form a vivid picture of the time. The main character, Pyke is in the head of the newly formed Detective branch and in the best traditions of maverick detectives is battling his bosses and struggling in his personal life while trying to find a brutal murder.

Although this is the fourth book in the series and I have not read any of the previous ones it didn't matter as there was a good introduction to the characters and the setting, although I now want to catch up with the ones I have missed.

A thoroughly engaging read which I would recommend to anyone who likes period crime.
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on 15 February 2011
Andrew Pepper's Detective Inspector Pyke heads up the newly formed Detective Branch at Scotland Yard, during the early years of Victorian England. The London he describes, from the food and fashion through to the brothels and the gin houses, paints an evocative picture of that time.

Whilst dealing with the political infighting amongst his peers he investigates a violent robbery at a pawn shop. As he untangles the events of that night he discovers links to an older case, that lead him into a dangerous battle of wits with the criminal gangs of London, the church and his fellow police officers.

Pyke's upbringing engenders in him a sometimes pragmatic, sometimes violent response to events as they unfold in this gripping tale of greed and deceit.
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on 20 February 2011
A shooting at a pawn brokers in Victorian London, which leaves three dead, is investigated by the recently formed Detective Branch. Pyke heads up the investigation in spite of others trying to muscle their way in.
The back cover of this book led me to expect something historical, mysterious and atmospheric but for me this didn't really come across in the reading. The story and the individual elements within it are good but something about the way it flows, or does not flow, made the reading a little 'clunky'. The tale itself could easily have been a modern detective story but to make it more authentic the author throws in, somewhat uncomfortably to my mind, chunks of historical detail.
I tried really hard to enjoy this book but felt that in spite of all the ingredients being included they did not fuse together well and it even felt a little unfinished. For me, too much unnecessary detail was sometimes included; sentences and paragraphs could have been condensed to improve the flow of the writing.
I do wonder, however, since the author is a university lecturer in English, whether I'm not missing something. After all he is published and has had previous books nominated for awards. I know there will be plenty who will really enjoy this historical crime novel, especially those who appreciate a lot of detail.
It's a real shame that I couldn't enjoy this book more than I did but I just didn't feel that it came across as atmospheric as it should have. I did enjoy the underlying story and I did want to find out 'whodunnit' but I also felt a little let down by the slow pace and lack of cohesion between the elements. I think the book will be OK for some, just not for me.
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