Blog tour: 1 to 5 April 2020
South London, 1896.
William Arrowood, Victorian London’s less salubrious private detective, is paid a visit by Captain Moon, the owner of a pleasure steamer moored on the Thames. He complains that someone has been damaging his boat, putting his business in jeopardy.
Arrowood and his trusty sidekick Barnett suspect professional jealousy, but when a shocking discovery is pulled from the river, it seems like even fouler play is afoot.
It’s up to Arrowood and Barnett to solve the case, before any more corpses end up in the watery depths.
In South London in 1896, private enquiry agent William Arrowood and his assistant, Norman Barnett are visited by Captain Moon and his daughter, Suzie, who run the little pleasure steamer, the Gravesend Queen, on the River Thames. They pick up passengers at Old Swan Pier by London Bridge and take them to Terrace Pier in Gravesend and have been doing this route for 13 or 14 years. They’ve been having trouble with a man called Polgreen who started up on the same route a year ago and is now trying to put them out of business by sabotaging their boat. They ask Arrowood and Barnett to help them out and gather evidence to prove that it is Polgreen who has been damaging their steamer.
At first, the case seems fairly straightforward but then, following an arson attack by a gang of masked men, a shocking discovery turns things on its head and the private detectives soon realise they’ve become embroiled in something far bigger and more dangerous than they were expecting.
As the story races along and the body count rises, we follow Arrowood and Barnett all over dirty, impoverished London to various areas and establishments as they try to get to the bottom of things and stay out of trouble, while struggling to survive on little money and, in Arrowood’s case, trying to support his sister, Ettie, and a baby. They both ending up pawning things just to have enough money to eat sometimes.
The two main protagonists work well together and have a good partnership. They each have their flaws but they look after, and bring out the best in, each other.
This was a fascinating historical read, with brilliant attention to detail, and vividly descriptive; I could almost smell the pungent and disgusting aromas of Victorian London. The story was rather gory and revolting at times but it definitely helped to create an atmospheric and graphic read. Everything and everyone seemed to be grimy, sweaty, greasy, bloody or oozing and there were rats and other nasties everywhere! I feel like I need a good wash after reading it!
There was a great cast of characters, with lovely names like ratcatcher Foulpipe Annie and cracksman Flatnose Fisher, from all walks of life, from the street urchin children to the violent thugs and the more distinguished individuals. The story was well researched and I really felt that I got to know all the types of people and the period of time in which the book is set.
There were several twists, turns and misdirections, as well as some shocking revelations, which I hadn’t seen coming! The story had a lot of depth and, at times, I was a little overwhelmed by the cast of characters and had to remind myself who was who.
Overall, I really enjoyed this cleverly plotted and well-written story. It’s not my usual genre but I found it really absorbing and loved the layering of the story and the way it built up a great picture of the horrors of the city at the time. I hadn’t realised this was the third book in the series but I’ll definitely be checking out the others, Arrowood and The Murder Pit, now!
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About the author
Mick Finlay was born in Glasgow and grew up in Canada and England. He now divides his time between Brighton and Cambridge. He teaches part-time in a psychology department, and has published research on political violence, persuasion, and verbal and non-verbal behaviour. Before becoming an academic, he ran a market stall on Portobello Road, and has worked as a tent-hand in a travelling circus, a butcher’s boy, a hotel porter, and in various jobs in the NHS and social services.
He writes historical crime fiction set in 1890’s South London. The first in the series, Arrowood, was published in 2017 by HQ (Harper Collins). The sequel, The Murder Pit, came out in January 2019 and Arrowood and the Thames Corpses is the third book.
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