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Edinburgh Twilight by Carole Lawrence

As a new century approaches, Edinburgh is a city divided. The wealthy residents of New Town live in comfort, while Old Town’s cobblestone streets are clotted with criminals, prostitution, and poverty.

Detective Inspector Ian Hamilton is no stranger to Edinburgh’s darkest crimes. Scarred by the mysterious fire that killed his parents, he faces his toughest case yet when a young man is found strangled in Holyrood Park.

With little evidence, aside from a strange playing card found on the body, Hamilton engages the help of his aunt, a gifted photographer, and George Pearson, a librarian with a shared interest in the criminal mind. But the body count is rising. As newspapers spin tales of the “Holyrood Strangler,” panic sets in across the city. And with each victim, the murderer is getting closer to Hamilton, the one man who dares to stop him.

I’ve become quite the fan of the crime genre since I started The Eloquent Page. Over the years, I’ve found that it is mostly historic crime fiction that tends to catch my eye. The Victorian era seems to offer a particularly rich vein of ideas. There are many authors mining this period and creating some wonderful books. The latest to add to that list is Edinburgh Twilight by Carole Lawrence.

Front and centre, we have rookie detective, Ian Hamilton. A personal tragedy has set this young man on a very specific course. He has walked away from the potential of a more artistic career, and towards a job in Edinburgh’s burgeoning police force. It is quickly established that Hamilton is driven by a profound desire to uncover the truth at all costs. The Holyrood Strangler is his first case as lead detective, and he is keen to prove his worth. Hamilton has a tenacious approach to his work and steadfastly refuses to give up. Lawrence does a good job of capturing the internal jumble of conflicting emotions that exist within Hamilton. He is earnest and forthright in his opinions, but he is also still young and in some respects somewhat naïve. There is a very personal aspect to the plot that I liked. It is fascinating to watch as the investigation takes its toll on Hamilton.

There are a host of other characters who both help and hinder Hamilton during the course of his investigations; from the local pickpockets, card-sharps and heavies, to the other members of the force and even a resourceful librarian. There is a gambler called Rat Face who is particularly sleazy. I suppose when it comes to being a good detective, the more unscrupulous your underworld connections are, the better.

I have always had a bit of a soft spot in my heart for Edinburgh. Though I am originally west coast of Scotland, growing up just outside Glasgow for the curious amongst you, I used to venture to the city on a regular basis. Wandering around, even now, you can still get a sense of the old and the new coming together. Lawrence’s evocative writing captures the duality of this unique city’s character perfectly. Personally, I’ve always rather liked that Edinburgh has always had a dark underbelly. Though a little earlier in Edinburgh’s existence, real life criminals like the famous body-snatchers Burke and Hare, or the highwayman Deacon Brodie, have always conjured macabre, bloody images for me. I can easily appreciate that the city could be quite the muse when it comes to the genesis of crime fiction*.

The time-period also lends itself particularly well to the crime genre. Towards the end of the nineteenth century times were changing. The technical explosion of Industrial Revolution was drawing many from agricultural jobs in the countryside into the ever-growing metropolis. That increase in population would make it that much easier for a skilled predator to hide amongst the influx of new people. With all the comings and goings, individuals could disappear without a word and it would not be immediately obvious that anything untoward had occurred. This is one of the reasons why I think historic crime fiction excels over its modern counterpart. A detective, like Hamilton, is bound by the constraints of the age. The investigative process is that much more laborious and time consuming than I imagine it is now. The technology for solving crimes still very much in its infancy.

If you’ve read and enjoyed the Frey and McGray novels by Oscar de Muriel, The Strings of Murder and A Fever in the Blood, then I am sure you will appreciate Edinburgh Twilight. I can only hope that this is just the first novel to feature Detective Inspector Ian Hamilton. I’d love to be able to read more. If you like your crime fiction with a historical flavour then I would suggest that you give this a go.

My soundtrack choice to accompany Edinburgh Twilight is the suitably gruesome gem From Hell by Trevor Jones. It ticks all the right atmospheric boxes. The album has a classical tone, which ties in well with the setting for the book. While listening I found it dovetailed nicely with the novel and added an added sense of urgency to the plot which made the experience that much more enjoyable.

Edinburgh Twilight is published by Thomas & Mercer and is available now.

* As an aside, if you’ve never been and you ever get the chance to go, I can thoroughly recommend Edinburgh. It’s a beautiful city with a fascinating history that any bibliophile would enjoy. The chances of running into a serial killer nowadays are much reduced so you probably don’t need to worry too much about that

Edinburgh Twilight (Ian Hamilton Mysteries)

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