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The Strings of Murder: Frey & McGray Book 1 (A Victorian Mystery) Paperback – 12 Feb 2015
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About the Author
Oscar de Muriel was born in Mexico City and moved to the UK to complete his PhD. He is a chemist, translator and violinist who now lives and works in Manchester. The Loch of the Dead is his fourth novel, following A Mask of Shadows, A Fever of the Blood and The Strings of Murder.
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This was the first book in a long time that I had trouble putting down. I even forced myself to read it on the bus even though reading on a bus gives me travel sickness.
The book gripped me from the beginning. I enjoyed the characters; they all felt genuine and organic. It incorporated its setting and time period appropriately. Everyone had an appropriate personality/views for their time and de Muriel captured how well these things would interact with the plot. This is something that can spoil so many otherwise well-crafted books so I was thrilled to see it managed to well.
The mystery was masterfully woven. I had clues and inklings of what may be happening, clues teased in all the right ways. I honestly can't decide who I like better - Frey or McGray. Both have their own unique quirks and even if McGray didn't have an accent, I bet I could distinguish between his and Frey's lines. Two very well crafted and realised characters.
There were times when the plot carried me along swiftly. It slowed down when necessary. I found myself giggling at some parts, gasping at others, and shaking with anger at other parts.
The only thing I will say is that the eventual culprit could have been hinted at a little more. As it is, they almost seem to come out of nowhere. de Muriel is very good at planting clues in plain sight that we don't fully understand until later, so I was disappointed with this aspect, however, I can live with it as is. I would have given this 4 stars for it, but I still enjoyed the book so much, so I went ahead and gave it 5. Excellent writing absolves a multitude of sins.
If you enjoy things like X-files, Sherlock Holmes, or Jonathan Creek, you will love this.
Ian Frey is a detective at Scotland Yard but in the fallout of the Ripper murders he is on the wrong side politically and faces a stark choice - the sack or a secondment to Edinburgh to look into a potential Ripper copycat where success could mean a return to London. The case is baffling, a violinist is killed and eviscerated in a locked room, and his new boss, Adolphus "Nine Nails" McGray is repulsive to him but, as the bodies pile up, they bring different strengths to the investigation.
The plot is suitably melodramatic for the period (1888) with psychics, body snatchers and beasties added to plenty of twists and turns, all adding up to an engrossing read. Frey and McGray are like chalk and cheese, the former being refined and snobbish, the latter much more rough and ready, not to mention obsessed with the occult, much to Frey's disgust. Their relationship and interplay provides much of the comedy in the novel as they gradually come to an accommodation in their working life and start to appreciate one another's skills.
There is much to like in The Strings Of Murder and I think Mr de Muriel has a winning formula in it so I'm looking forward to the next instalment.
A minor member of the gentry ends up in the Victorian Scotland Yard, and having fallen out of favour ends up heading north to the real Scotland.
The tale is one of broad gothic touches, with the relationship between the snooty English Inspector and his grouchy Scottish counterpart being at the core of the book. If you enjoy their banter then you will enjoy the book, if not, then you might find it harder going.
The author has made a game effort with setting the bulk of the book in Edinburgh, however it is clear that he does not know the place particularly well. For example the City Chambers is a far more remarkable building than the book would suggest, and the Ensign Ewart is hardly the nearest pub. Characters never seem to remark whether they are heading up or downhill, despite Edinburgh being such a vertiginous place. Similarly the parkland in the centre of Edinburgh is the Meadows, not the Moors. However these are small indiscretions in such a good hearted and entertaining romp. Hopefully there are plenty more to come in this series.