Susan McKinney | Mystery offers interesting characters

Susan McKinney | Mystery offers interesting characters

Mick Finlay's "The Murder Pit" is the second Arrowood Mystery featuring Mr. Arrowood and his associate, Norman Barnett.

They live and work in 1896 London — the London that does not appear in Sherlock Holmes mysteries. This is the London of the poor, mistreated and forgotten; the filthy, dark, diseased and suffering part of the city.

The two men help find justice for the people society ignores.

They are hired by Mr. and Mrs. Barclay to find their daughter. She was married to a rural farmer 6 months before, but the farmer's family won't let her see the parents. They are concerned for her safety and want Arrowood to check on her.

Birdie Barclay, the daughter, is mentally handicapped and is very compliant and pleasing to whomever she is beholden.

When Arrowood and Barnett visit the farm, they are kept from seeing Birdie and are told by her sister-in-law Rosanna that she does not want to see her parents.

They are threatened with vicious dogs and local workers who are loyal to the family.

They continue to investigate, despite the threats, when they come across an old gypsy woman, Mrs. Gillie, who hints at dark things on the farm but won't say anything more.

She's over 6 feet tall and only has one tooth. She's definitely scared of something because she tells them where to find her will in her wagon.

They approach the local constable, and he sends them away, saying there is nothing going on. When they show up the next morning to talk to Mrs. Gillie again, she is missing.

There's been a struggle, and they find her cat dead near the camp. The coat she said she would be buried in is by her bed in the wagon. Thus begins the true investigation into who murdered Mrs. Gillie.

This book is a dark, faithful rendition of the conditions of the late 1800s. If you're too poor, people look the other way rather than help. If you are mentally handicapped, you're locked away in an asylum or you are treated like a slave.

It is not a pretty book. Finlay really strikes home at the heart of genteel society and the ability to not see the injustice around you.

Personally, I like the mystery, but I still do not like the main character, Mr. Arrowood. He's more concerned about the publicity than about how he is treating those around him. Barnett, his faithful assistant, is the more noble being despite his rough edges.

Ettie, Arrowood's sister, is another noble being who works tirelessly to help those less fortunate.

Finlay brings his characters to life with their strengths and their weaknesses. They are real people with real failings who must strive to be better than what they are, and sometimes they do help to bring justice to those who cannot protect themselves.

Susan McKinney is the librarian at the St. Joseph Township-Swearingen Memorial Library. She received her master's in library science from the University of Illinois. She came here from Indiana for graduate school and fell in love with the area. She has lived here ever since. She is an avid reader and enjoys mystery, suspense, fantasy and action novels.

Topics (1):Books