Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Mangle Street Murders: Review

The Mangle Street Murders takes us to Victorian London to meet the most famous personal detective. Personal--not private. Don't even think about using the word "private" in his presence. Just as Sidney Grice has taken on the guardianship of the daughter of a man to whom he feels indebted, he is approached by Mrs. Grace Dillinger to investigate the murder of her daughter. The man accused of stabbing Sarah Dillinger Ashby forty times is her husband--but Mrs. Dillinger is certain that he is innocent. When Grice finds out that Mrs. Dillinger has no money, he is ready to decline the case--after all, the most important thing is his fee, not justice. But his ward, March Middleton, has means of her own and offers to pay him herself--provided he allows her to accompany him in his investigations. He reluctantly agrees, but the more they discover the more convinced he becomes that the police have arrested the right man. March is just as sure that they may be sending an innocent man to the gallows and she keeps goading Grice on to continue looking for the truth. A truth that may surprise both of them.

Sidney Grice is the most unlikeable "good" guy I've ever met in detective fiction. There are detectives with big egos (Nero Wolfe or Hercule Poirot, anyone?). There are detectives with irritating habits, poor manners,or an apparent loathing of their fellow-man...but Grice absolutely takes the cake. He is rude to just about everyone he meets. His ego is as big as steam engine. He'll do just about anything to make sure he gets the credit for solving a case and once he's got the credit, he absolutely does NOT want to admit that he might have been wrong. He has all the faults of Holmes and none of the redeeming qualities.

March Middleton, on the other hand, is a very likeable, outspoken young woman who isn't about to live up to her Victorian male companions' opinions of women. She's assisted her father, the army surgeon, out in the field and she isn't about to swoon at the sight of blood or the use of strong language. She has no problem telling her guardian, Inspector Pound, various constables, shopkeepers, and others exactly what she thinks. She's definitely good for Grice--he needs someone to tell him he's not nearly as wonderful and perfect as he thinks he is.

The other supporting characters are also finely drawn and engaging. The mystery is a tad convoluted and it's not as fairly clued as one might like, but a nice solid debut novel. I definitely want to read the next one...if only to find out if Grice mellows at all after having March in his household for a while. I'm also curious to see if the mystery is better constructed and explained.  ★★


Kimberlee said...

I have this one on my tbr list. It looks good. I can't wait to read it and see if I find the mystery to be convoluted as well.


Katherine P said...

I read this one back in February and I think you definitely hit the nail on the head with your review. Months after reading it I can remember Grice and March vividly but have absolutely no idea what the mystery was. I'm hoping now that the characters are established the 2nd book will be a little more mystery focused. Great review!

fredamans said...

I read the review and think to myself this one sounds slow-pace, a little too so for me. Great review.