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Detective Sergeant Best works for the Metropolitan Police. When a canal boat explodes on the canal through Regent's Park in 1874 killing and injuring several people Best finds himself trying to identify bodies including that of a young woman. Making enquiries he comes across the feisty Helen - sister of one of the missing young women who might possibly be the body in the mortuary.

This is an interesting Victorian mystery story, well written and well researched. I introduces the interesting, half Italian Best with his sad history and the up and coming Detective Constable Smith. It is a complex plot with some interesting diversions including a glimpse into several of the different groups in London at the time - artists - including Laurence Alma-Tadema - whose house is damaged by the explosion on the canal.

If you like your mysteries with a historical background then give this series a try. I hope we will be seeing the rest of the volumes in the series as e-books before too long.
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on 19 March 2012
Set in 1874, the explosion aboard the canal boat Tilbury on an October evening in the fashionable St John's Wood area, is the backdrop to this intriguing mystery. For following the recovery of the bodies of boatmen William Taylor and the lad, and eventually the mangled body of skipper Charles Baxton, the rescuers find a fourth body, that of a slight woman with fair hair not facially recognizable. For Sergeant Ernest Best identification is further complicated when he discovers that only the Captain's are known to the manager of the Grand Junction Canal traffic. As is explained to him, all the Captains take on their own crew. So could the Captain have had his wife on board, he asks?

As the investigation progresses and several likely possibilities are eliminated, Best is faced with a widening number of avenues to investigate, the barmaid, Liza Moody missing from The Three Tuns Public House since September 30th. But as the clothing seems of good quality, possibly a lady from one of the house's in St John's Wood that border the canal, or a Lady's maid who has received the good linen from her mistress. Or, maybe another victim of the Thames murderer?

Joan Lock paints an interesting portrait of life in 1874, and the problems for a young Sergeant faced with interviewing the rich and privileged in order to uncover a murderer, and obtain justice for those less fortunate.

In the course of his investigations Ernest Best meets Helen Franks, whose sister Matilda is missing. When Best discovers that Helen has taken art lessons from Lawrence Alma-Tadema, whose house was damaged in the explosion, the case becomes even more complicated, as does his relationship with Helen Franks.

A fascinating insight into life in 1874 coupled with marvelous characterization, and an intriguing, and most satisfying mystery.

This is the first book in which we meet Detective Sergeant Ernest Best. There are a further six books in this highly acclaimed series - all excellent mysteries.
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on 1 February 2015
This was a great introduction to Sergeant Best. The scene is set for many more stories. I am hooked and will now get the next.
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on 19 April 2015
I had not read anything by this author before ,but will read more it was a very good historical who -dunnit,one or two parts a bit boring but on the whole a good read
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on 19 March 2012
This is a well-researched novel, full of detail of the lives and working conditions of canal boat men in the Victorian era. An intriguing mystery with some well-drawn characters and an unusual romance.
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on 3 February 2015
My grandson loved it and even thanked me for buying it-and it did not plug into the mains or receive Wi-Fi
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on 4 May 2016
really enjoyed this book, especially as i am a canal lover
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on 1 August 2015
very well thought out story
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