Edinburgh, 1888. A violinist is murdered in his home. The dead virtuoso’s maid swears she heard three musicians playing in the night. But with only one body in the locked practice room – and no way in or out – the case makes no sense.
Fearing a national panic over another 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 supernatural 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…
Paperback |406 pages
Publisher: Penguin (12th February, 2015)
I have been wanting to read this book for ages and ages, but I tried to not let my excitement over reading this cloud my judgement – excitement can both positively and negatively impact the way I read – from the first few chapters, I knew that I had stumbled across something magnificent. Frey and McGray are total opposites and their working relationship shouldn’t work and yet they gel together oh so completely and the banter between the two characters caused me much laughter as I read.
I found this very easy to read. I read this over the course of two evenings and I found the story to be both interesting and gripping. There is a lot of humor in the book, intentional and unintentional that was an added bonus to the already superb plot. I was able to read without any issues and enjoyed the ease of reading and the overall flow of the story.
Frey really took me on a journey because there were elements of his character that I dislike and then he had moments where his empathy and his understanding pushed him into a more positive light. I thought he was the black sheep of his family, but came to understand that however much he pushed away from them, those teachings as a child were still embedded in his personality. He was such a fussy character but he has a lot of redeeming qualities and he genuinely loves his job at CID. Edinburgh was good for Frey, it allowed him the freedom to prove himself and allows the reader to get to know the character in a setting that isn’t ruled by the social conduct of London Society.
I grew to like Frey’s character as the story continued and quite often found him to be amusing in what he said or how he acted. He has a truly unique voice and once I’d imagine him and his voice, it was hard to read him in any other way. At the end of this book, there is still a lot unanswered for Frey and I’ll be interested to see how his story continues through the series and how he grows as a character.
McGray was more difficult to picture. For the first 5-10 chapters, my imagination of him constantly changed and I struggled to picture his age and what he looked like. I managed to form an imagination of him about halfway through the book but even then, it kept changing. You can’t not read McGray in a Scottish accent, and his eccentricities make for a compelling character. At the start I didn’t know what to think because I didn’t know whether he was going to be exploited for his opinions of the supernatural, or whether he was going to be treated with respect despite his opinions. It was a mixture of both really, but it built this mystery around the character that I found curious.
There is more to McGray than was unpacked in this novel and I think he’ll have more of a growth arch than Frey. He has a very unique way of investigating and his chaotic thought process – though it seemed to irritate Frey to no end – I thought brought charm and a sense of understanding to the case at hand. I connected to McGray quite quickly and found myself rooting for the character more. I wonder at the finer details of his past and whether they’ll ever be revealed as the story continues.
Together, the two men present a united front and their differences only further help them to solve the cases before them. They clearly have special bonds with the people around them and it’s very amusing to see Frey’s maid and McGray’s butler, at loggerheads. I have high hopes for these characters.
I found this very easy to visualise, despite having never been to Edinburgh – I am trying to go there, I just haven’t sorted it yet! – but I found that I was able to create a visual image through the descriptions of the book and with my own imagination. I never felt like I didn’t understand something that was happening and apart from my small issues in visualising McGray, I had no further problems.
The reveal of the culprit would, in any other book, have irritated me greatly. However, I found the reveal of this culprit to be crafty and unpredictable. I guess I spent so much time theorising over who the culprit could be that I was completely accepting of who it turned out to be. Oscar De Muriel’s writing wove an intricate web of words for me to devour and the truth behind the supernatural chilled me to the core. It reminded me of some of the darker plots of CSI, and left me feeling excited at the prospect of the next book in the series.
I was thoroughly immersed in this book, I would have read it in an entire day if I had had the chance. I thought the duo of Frey and McGray worked perfectly and their nature for naturally disliking each other brought a smile to my face as each insult escalated as the story continued. There are many supporting characters in this book that add a touch of finesse to the already powerful duo.
I don’t often read crime books set in the past because I sometimes find the language difficult to understand or I find the words to be stodgy and am unable to focus or connect to the story. I took a risk with this book, set in 1888. Yet, the blurb sounded so interesting and I couldn’t resist in buying the book to read. I am glad that I took the chance on this book because it ended up being such a good read and filling my mind with possibilities for an hour or two.
It’s rare that a story brings a real smile to my face as I read, but this did just that. I just found the story so captivating and the characters so rich in life. The story’s journey had many twists and turns that kept me both focused and curious and I loved the banter, not just between Frey and McGray but between all the secondary characters as well. I loved reading this book, it has more than earned its place on my ‘to keep’ bookshelf. I can see so much potential in the two main characters and am invested in finding out where their story leads and what cases they’ll run into next.
If you’re a fan of impossible cases, of the supernatural and the unexplained, of murder and crime, then please, this is the book for you!