The Mangle Street Murders by MRC Kasasian

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The Mangle Street Murders by MRC Kasasian

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A Victorian murder mystery that nods towards Sherlock Holmes but has a personality all of its own. Gore, intrigue, twists, smiles and Sidney Grice... that's every box ticked for me!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: November 2013
Publisher: Head of Zeus
ISBN: 978-1781851845

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March Middleton's father dies, and she becomes a 20-something alone; not a good status for a Victorian woman. She therefore moves in with her guardian, Sidney Grice, personal (not private!) detective. Although, as Sidney has a case to solve, March may as well be invisible. Grice has been employed by shopkeeper William Ashby who has savagely murdered his own wife by stabbing her 40 times and leaving the Italian word for 'revenge' on the wall. Everyone says he did it apart from Ashby, of course. Therefore Grice teams up with Inspector Pound of the Yard to solve the conundrum and March is there to help, whether Sidney wants her to or not.

MRC Kasasian (Martin to his mum) has had a few jobs in his life from wine waiter to dentist with vet's assistant and fairground hand somewhere in between. Having read this, his debut novel, I'd say he left the best job till last. He appears to be a born writer, providing us with a murder mystery dream team.

I'd be interested to see if your thoughts on Sidney change during the book; mine did. I started by unkindly thinking him a rip-off but that soon changed as I fell for his off-hand manner and desert-dry humour. Then halfway through the novel he started to revolt me (you'll see why), making me think that March and Pound were the only reasons I continued to read but that didn't last too long either. By the time I finished, I realised he's a lot more complex than I'd given him credit for.

On the other hand, March is a charmer from the beginning with redeeming qualities to match. She's our interpreter, behaving and reacting as we would if we were thrown into the story. March may be a feisty lady, fighting 19th century societal barriers but the barriers remain and she's frequently reminded of their existence. We don't know everything though; March has a dark secret. It's on its way to being revealed by the end of the novel, but her entire enticing story remains dangling just beyond our grasp... for now

The third member of the team, Inspector Pound, is a caring soul and, dare we hope, a future love interest for March? We can hope but I have a feeling that depends on the nature of the secret.

The hard brutal landscape of Victorian London also stars. (If we could smell blood through the pages, this novel would be more than vaguely fragrant!) Among its streets, there are revelations a-plenty as the solved/no it's not/yes it is/nope - not nature of the plot sweeps us along. We marvel, we smile, occasionally we giggle and, if you're anything like me, chapter 70 will make you cry.

Grice may share the same world as Holmes (as the author bravely reminds us from time to time) but Grice is his own man and a creation for which Kasasian will be remembered. Just as well really; Grice returns in June 2014, this time to investigate The Curse of the House of Foskett and I'm definitely looking forward to it

I'd like to thank Head of Zeus for providing us with a copy for review.

Further Reading: If this appeals then we also recommend The Kingdom of Bones by Stephen Gallagher.

M R C Kasasian's Gower Street Detective Series in Chronological Order

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