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The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel

Edinburgh, 1888. A virtuoso violinist is brutally killed in his home. Black magic symbols cover the walls. The dead man’s maid swears she heard three musicians playing before the murder.

But with no way in or out of the locked practice room, the puzzle makes no sense…

Fearing a national panic over a copy Edinburgh, 1888. A virtuoso violinist is brutally killed in his home. Black magic symbols cover the walls. The dead man’s maid swears she heard three musicians playing before the murder.

But with no way in or out of the locked practice room, the puzzle makes no sense…

Fearing a national panic over a copycat Ripper, Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Frey to investigate under the cover of a fake department specializing in the occult. However, Frey’s new boss – Detective ‘Nine-Nails’ McGray – actually believes in such nonsense.

McGray’s tragic past has driven him to superstition, but even Frey must admit that this case seems beyond reason. And once someone loses all reason, who knows what they will lose next…

Over the last couple of years, I’ve started to really enjoy the odd foray into the realms of historical crime fiction. It strikes me that the Victorian era lends itself particularly well to crime. Books set in this time period feel like they’ve come from the dawn of modern policing. All the new techniques and skills that we take for granted today, seem like the Devil’s work and cause distrust and superstition amongst the more traditional members of society.

James Frey has a natural inquisitiveness that lends itself well to the art of investigation. Unfortunately, he also has a tendency to be a trifle outspoken. His latest effort has landed him in a little hot water with the higher ups and he has been given a choice. Leave the force in disgrace or accept a new posting. His new position means he is taken from the cultured extravagances of London, and banished to the Athens of the North. From Frey’s perspective, it may as well be Siberia.  He considers the Scots a surly and disreputable bunch at best, but is left in little doubt that this new job is the only way he can salvage what is left of his career.

In the midst of the chaotic streets of Edinburgh, Frey meets his new boss, ‘Nine-Nails’ McGary. Driven, slightly wild and more than a little shambolic, he is the very antithesis of the order, refinement and composure that Frey lives for. McGary is a bit of a nut, and I warmed to him immediately. He has his own code of honour and is more than willing to bend any rules he finds to be a hindrance. In what I’m sure you will find a shocking turn of events, the two do not get on. Frey considers McGary beneath him, and McGary considers Frey a soft southern lassie. Stuck with one another, whether they like it or not, the two are forced to work together. It’s destined to be a match made in heaven.

Now, I’ll never admit this out loud but I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Edinburgh, even though I was born and grew up just outside Glasgow. Auld Reekie is a wonderful frenetic mish-mash of the modern and ancient. I’d imagine that was even more the case in 1888 when the new town would have been brand new. It’s the perfect neo-gothic setting for the odd dastardly deed or two.

There is a deliciously macabre undercurrent to proceedings. There are a host of gruesome moments, some even involving intestines, which is always nice. It seems only appropriate that such sinister crimes should have such a dark tone.

I do hope The Strings of Murder is successful enough to become an on-going series. I like the way Frey and McGary spark off one another. The eventual begrudging respect that they have for one another is the ideal cornerstone to hang a larger narrative from. A historic buddy cop story where the buddies don’t actually get along, I’m certainly game. As I mentioned before, this time period fits perfectly with crime genre. I’ve read quite a few books set in this time frame and it’s great to finally read one where the majority of the action takes place outside of London for a change. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of our nation’s capital, but I suspect the crime did occur in other locations as well. I’d imagine almost every major metropolitan area had its own fair share of dark streets and nefarious types.

The Strings of Murder is published by Penguin and is available now. Well worth checking out if you like your historical fiction with a darkly entertaining edge.

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