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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 November 2010
I got to know David Ashton's stories about James McLevy "inspector of police" through dramatizations by BBC Radio Scotland on Radio 4. As far as I know the author first wrote a series of McLevy stories that were broadcast as short radio plays and then has combined several of the investigations to create this book. I recognized the investigations and as I read could hear the wonderful voices of actor Brian Cox, who plays McLevy, and Siobham Redmond who plays the feisty madam of the Happy Land brothel in Leith. There's a suggestion of a previous relationship between McLevy and Jean but it's never elaborated other than their mutual love of good coffee.

Ashton's writings evoke the seedy underworld that was Leith: the latter an area of dockland that later became incorporated into Edinburgh, which, well into the 20th century was not a place you'd want to walk in alone late at night.
The book has not only a great sense of place and but is also full of humour with dialogue that captures the speech patterns and colloquial language of the area. Some of the latter words will be unfamiliar to many but their meaning is often discernible from the way they sound. e.g., dreich = a dull, overcast day; to boak = to vomit.

A robbery, that may be an inside job; a turf war between Jean Brash and a competing brothel madam; secret agents connected with the American Civil War and a Spiritualist medium all provide threads in this very enjoyable book. The creation of characters and their interactions are the key joys of these stories, not just Jean and McLevy but also the latter's boss, Lieutenant Roach, as a caricature of the upright pillar of Presbyterian rectitude; Constable Mulholland who solemnly quotes his auntie Katie and novice policeman Ballantyne who saves the lives of insects he finds in the station. Real life Arthur Conan Doyle (who trained in medicine in Edinburgh) dots in and out of the story as an enthusiastic participant in the detective work.

I've read that there was a real Leith policeman called McLevy in Victorian times who was friendly with a local madam called Jean Brash, but that the author has fashioned their characters from his imagination.
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on 13 January 2013
I enjoyed this book and have read all the Mclevy series so far. Please let's have another one soon. Would definitely read more books by this author.
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on 23 November 2011
This is book three in the Inspector McLevy series and should really be read in sequence as David Ashton has built on the various characters as he develops each of the novels. By book three they transform in to well known and well loved character whose traits are easily rcogniable to the reader.
In this story Ashton weaves Arthur Conan Doyle through the book and one is left to ponder how much of Sherlock Holmes is reflected in Inspector Mclevy (or should that be the other way around!). There are enough twists in the tale to keep the reader interested right up to the very end.
Hopefully we will see further stories emerge and build further on the characters. Surprised that the books have not made their way on top either the big or the small screen, they have the potential for a lot of humour as well as being murder mysteries and I can already imagine some well known Scottish actors in the various roles
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on 4 August 2017
A cleverly constructed but slightly far-fetched plot forms a structure in which David Ashton gives full rein to his gift for characterisation - the major and lesser characters are all very well fleshed out and have real depth, and the dynamics between them (especially the police officers) are superbly executed. McLevy himself is a fine literary creation - gruff, plain-speaking, mischievous, possessing courage and moral fibre.
As in the previous novels, Victorian Edinburgh lives and breathes, and the narrative - peppered with expressive Scots - is a joy to read.
Not the best McLevy novel, but better than most Neo-Victorian crime fiction.
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on 11 March 2014
I persevered with this book, hoping it would improve and engage my imagination. Given the predominance of good reviews and distinct lack of poor ones, I began to wonder if the fault was with me, as I am an avid reader of good crime fiction set in the Victorian era.
Sadly, I've given up - the plot fails to engage, the characters are flat, one dimensional and uninteresting, the descriptive detail and writing style annoying - there are far better books out there which deserve my attention.
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on 8 May 2014
This is apparently the third book in the series and they should be read in order but I can't see me having the enthusiasm to read one and two if they are anything like this. Inspector whatever is pretty dull and the book is a bit of a torment to get through. I don't think I will bother with any more of these, thanks.
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on 5 July 2014
I loved the first two books and was thus tempted to buy this one. Wish I had saved my money. The plot is convoluted and boring, too many threads for real enjoyment. Needless to say, this is the last of the series I will be reading. Not recommended.
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on 10 April 2014
unable to get into this one may never finish it! perhaps giving up to easily. may try again when doing nothing else.
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on 13 October 2010
Another delicious, intriguing McLevy mystery. Ashton's evocation of Victorian Edinburgh is joyous. McLevy, as carnaptious and crusty as ever, educates a young and eager medical student named Arthur Conan Doyle in the interpretation and evaluation of clues, while sorting out murder mayhem and some shady paranormal goings on.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 February 2012
Although the title of my review suggests this may not be a good read, I have only criticised it in comparison with the previous two books as they are truly excellent reads. This one, as I say, I found a bit harder going. It seems to me that the author was trying too hard to fit as much as possible into the story and quite frankly the presence of Arthur Conan Doyle, whilst interesting at first, became an encumbrance later on with too many coincidental meetings between Mclevy, Mukholland and Doyle being my main bugbear. Having said all that this is still head and shoulders above the competition and the series should be much more popular than it appears to be. There was probably enough material here for two books with a bit of filling out of character and place, both of which incidentally, is beautifully described in this book as well as the others which makes the series the joy it is. I've just discovered the radio plays on Audible and I can heartily recommend them as well.
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