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3.6 out of 5 stars34
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 20 December 2009
The splendid cover photograph of Edinburgh in the 1890s gives a slightly false impression, but it's the only wrong thing about this excellent book. McLevy, an Irishman with no love for the English, entered the city's police force in 1830, became a detective three years later, and wrote these memoirs in the 1850s. Quintin Jardine, who has written a foreword to this new edition, observes: `McLevy was clearly a one-off, a character who would have trouble fitting into a modern police force, yet whose perception and knowledge of his streets and his subjects would have made him too valuable to be excluded from it.' This welcome new edition of his writings shows us the city into which Arthur Conan Doyle would be born in 1859 -- but that's a bonus. McLevy: The Edinburgh Detective is a cracking good read.
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on 16 March 2011
I like David Ashton's version of McLevy so much I wasn't sure if I could adapt to the real McLevy. But the opening paragraph was full of humour, and as I read on I found his personality came through so vividly it was like meeting an old friend.

McLevy himself is such an interesting character, stern in his duty but yet could be kind, he is thoughtful about how people are led into crime and has some quite modern insights. His understanding of human nature helps him to be so successful, and he shows us people from all sections of society.

I often find it difficult to read non-fiction, which lacks narrative drive to hook me, but McLevy's memoirs have fascinated me in many ways. If you like David Ashton's McLevy, you will find he has been true to the original in characters, settings, and turns of phrase. There is much to enjoy in the original.
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on 3 September 2013
Victorian prose is often too turgid and tedious for many people. McLevy's memoirs are not like that at all. Each story is short and brings alive nineteenth century Edinburgh, at least its more sordid and deprived underworld of petty and not so petty crime.
McLevy, for a man with only basic education, probably obtained at a national school in south Armagh, has a remarkable ability to bring his characters alive to the reader. His powers of observation which of course were key to his success as a detective are also key to his desciptive powers. The author's facility to phylosophise is never far from the surface and some readers might find this a bit tedious although it does show something of Victorian thinking and McLevy's character in particular. He makes use of broad or Lowland Scots expressions at times which may bamboozle southern English readers but I would not let this deter you from this very commendable book.
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on 8 April 2014
I can' t complain because I got this kindle book at a very good deal and the stories are quite interesting, especially the degree of freedom that the police had at that time, but I find that I have to skip large sections of very dated nonsense to read this book. Still, I have read about a quarter of the book and I haven' t quite given up on it yet.

I would skip this book... Unless particularly interested in early crime detection.
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on 20 February 2013
I originally came upon McLevy via David Ashton's excellent radio plays, and was intrigued to learn that they were based on the experiences of a real policeman. This book is a satisfying read. McLevy recounts various cases he was involved with, and is by turns amusing, pompous, prolix, but always compelling. As telling an insight into the seamy underside of Victorian respectability as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
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on 8 April 2014
I quite enjoyed this but feel it is an acquired taste due to the somewhat laboured language. Mc. Levy certainly likes the sound of his own voice. It is a bit self congratulatory but probably of its time. My ancestors came from the area so it is of interest to me as it describes a time which I have researched from a personal perspective. As the stories are quite short it is ideal for reading on the go.
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on 24 May 2013
If James McLevy were fictional I'd call him a brilliant creation; as this is a real memoir I'm stunned with admiration. These aren't whodunnits per se, no, but they still contain adventure, insight, and wit, as well as providing a fascinating glimpse into detection in the 19th Century. Very engaging, and should be required reading for would-be writer of detective fiction.
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on 28 January 2010
An interesting depiction of early C19th Police work and a flavour of the Edinburgh of the time.
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on 29 March 2015
The warning in the preface about the idiomatic language used is ay true . The text becomes hard work to get and somewhat spoils my enjoyment of the stories, however it is authentic to the Burgh of 1830 and the subsequent books are much easier to read .David Ashton is doing a great job and has created fascinating characters .
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on 24 July 2015
His methods of detection would not stand up in a modern day court and the rather cliche character portraits he paints could make this a boring read. But the colourful prose and the lightness of touch make this a fun read
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