THE DEVIL'S RIBBON by D.E. MEREDITH.
July, 1858. London swelters, and trouble is brewing. Forensic scientist Adolphus Hatton and his trusty assistant Albert Roumande have a morgue full of cholera victims to attend to, and an eager apprentice to teach. But alongside the cholera outbreak, London is also home to a growing unrest. When a leading politician of the Irish Unionist movement is murdered, the flamboyant Inspector Grey calls on Hatton and Roumande to help solve the case.
But Inspector Grey proves difficult to deal with - callous and hot-headed, he is determined to catch his criminals using any method, no matter how corrupt. When it becomes clear that they are dealing with a series of violent killings, Hatton and Roumande must attempt to find the connection between the victims - at the same time unravelling a bombing campaign by a group of would-be terrorists and exploring the method of fingerprinting, their newest forensic tool.
And amongst all this, Professor Hatton finds himself dangerously distracted by a beautiful woman and painful memories from his past. As the kaleidoscope of outlandish characters, dockside strikes, bomb blasts and violent retribution reaches a crescendo, Hatton's skills are tested to the limit.
....... Inner front cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Prologue: Highgate, 1858): Nothing but shadows and an eerie stillness in the heat of a simmering night as a figure stoops under a lintel and makes his way quickly, through a labyrinth of alleys, before finding Berry Street and heading north along the Farringdon Road.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 158): Flies were already thick in the air, the oilcloth on the floor swimming with guts, as Hatton reached the dissection slab where the new cadaver lay.
MY THOUGHTS: My first thoughts? Beautifully presented with a pretty dust-cover and ribbon-type bookmark. Perfect given the period in which the story is rooted.
Though the second in a series of books this is a self contained story.
Set in Victorian London where a cholera outbreak is far from the only danger to be faced. The Devil's Ribbon is a rich and yet somewhat dark tapestry of a read. As educational as it is entertaining, it seamlessly combines a murder mystery with the story of the exciting and fairly new science of forensics in a novel which gives any contemporary Crime Scene Investigation style fiction a run for its money.
Murder, dock strikes, riots, drug use, the growth of the Irish Nationalist movement, bombing campaigns, slums, fine tearooms. Then there's the wonderful relationship between Hatton and his assistant Roumande. Oh, and the 20 year old widow Mrs McCarthy who, with her womanly wiles, provides the romantic interest. It's all here in this remarkably descriptive novel and yet for some unknown reason I was left feeling oddly disappointed.
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