Murder in Paradise by Alanna Knight

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Murder in Paradise by Alanna Knight

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Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Paul McNulty
Reviewed by Paul McNulty
Summary: A superlative Victorian mystery with Edinburgh police detective Jeremy Faro uncovering evil amongst the idyllic earthly paradise of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: November 2008
Publisher: Allison & Busby
ISBN: 978-0749079437

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It is 1860. Constable Jeremy Faro, much to his chagrin, is lifted from his Edinburgh beat and dispatched to Kent to pick up the trail of the master criminal, MacHeath. All too aware of MacHeath's genius for evasion, Faro goes through the motions of finding him, only to become embroiled in a local case of petty theft, which might be connected to the disappearance of a young girl. At the same time, he discovers a terrifying secret about his best friend's wife-to-be. Are all of these events connected, and has the demonic MacHeath really fled, after all?

This is the fourteenth novel in Alanna Knight's superlative series about the Edinburgh police detective, Jeremy Faro. Faro is a fascinating character: born in Orkney but living in Edinburgh, his taciturn - dour, even - exterior masking a fierce intellect and passionate belief in justice, a belief that sometimes runs counter to his orders. This book is a prequel to the series proper, with Faro newly-promoted to the fledgling CID.

One of Knight's main strengths is that she doesn't make a fetish of the Victorian setting, as many writers - particularly in crime fiction - are wont to do. The book is peppered with 'real' people - in this case, William Morris and his Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, but they are portrayed as living, breathing people rather than historical charicatures. The 'Paradise' of the title is Morris' famous 'Red House' in Bexleyheath - in the mid-nineteenth century a cynosure for the artistic intelligentsia - and murder does, indeed, spoil the beatific calm of the place. The crimes are complex, but the motivations for them are convincing - real and human - rather than puzzle-plot devices.

Knight's writing style is painterly - she is an accomplished artist, herself - and I really felt I was there with Faro as he battles his implacable foe, hamstrung by indifferent local policing and Victorian social conventions. These books are a joy, and some of the earlier stories are now quite hard to get hold of, but I recommend reading any you can find. This one is a good start, as it takes pace early in the chronology of the series.

Readers might also be interested to know that Knight's other crime series, the 'Rose McQuinn' mysteries, are related to these, as McQuinn is Faro's daughter.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: Destroying Angel (Rose McQuinn Mysteries) by Alanna Knight and The Worms of Euston Square by William Sutton. You might also enjoy Act of Murder by Alan Wright.

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