I really enjoy books, films and tv programmes set in Edinburgh – it is the only city I have lived in and I love to read or see references to places I know there. So I was excited to read this book, which is set in Edinburgh in 1881.
This detective fiction is centred on Detective Inspector Ian Carmichael Hamilton, a young Highlander in Edinburgh. He is given an interesting back story along with a troubled brother and Glaswegian aunt. Other characters include fellow policemen Sergeant William Chester Dickerson and DCI Robert Lyle Crawford, and ten-year-old street urchin Derek McNair (who is a wonderful character). We are given details about the lives of all of these characters as they support Hamilton in his bid to capture a serial killer.
Here’s where I get really pedantic because I think some minor editing would help this novel hugely. I had some problems with the book. First was the setting, which did not always make sense or seem authentically Victorian. I am still puzzling over Hamilton’s appearance in Fleshmarket Close when he was walking from George IV Bridge to his flat in Victoria Terrace: why the detour? Am I missing something? Then there was the dialogue, we have characters from different places in Scotland and England but the dialogue didn’t read quite true for me: for example, did Glaswegian bartenders in Victorian Edinburgh drop their aitches? “‘At’s as may be – seen ‘im ‘ere afore, though”. And I am no expert in French but there was a newspaper headline which I think needs proof-read by a French speaker. Finally, I was a little bemused at the use of British to mean English: eg ‘his accent was British, exaggeratedly well-bred’ and ‘the Scots were less formal than the British’: ‘the British’ included Scots, this was the age of empire in which Scots were involved as enthusiastically as English, and an Edinburgh distillery opened only four years later calling itself the North British distillery (later still the North British Hotel opened in Edinburgh).
These little niggles took me out of the story, making me less involved and invested in the characters and plot which is a pity. A few minor changes would help make this novel much more gripping and enjoyable.
I give this book 3 stars.
I received this ebook free from NetGalley. It will be published by Thomas & Mercer on 5 September 2017.