“Arrowood and the Thames Corpses,” by Mick Finlay.
I have to admit. I like the mysteries, but I don’t necessarily like Mr. Arrowood. This is the third Arrowood mystery. William Arrowood is the poor man’s Sherlock Holmes. Mr. Arrowood would be very angry to be compared to Holmes.
These books are set in London 1896. Arrowood is a middle-class man who has lost everything and makes his living as a private detective.
He is very jealous of Sherlock Holmes and Holmes’ popularity. Arrowood takes cases from the most destitute and poor in London’s worst slums.
His biographer and strong man is Mr. Barnett, a man who grew up in London’s worst neighborhoods and has lived a rough life.
This mystery involves a man who captains a tourist boat. Someone is vandalizing his boat. He hires Arrowood to solve the problem.
Through the course of the investigation, you see the awful side of Victorian society. You see the gritty life that those who were not noble or moneyed had to live just to have a meal or a place to sleep.
This is not a pretty, lighthearted mystery. This is a story about the evils that men do when they think they can get away with it. The evil deeds that are done by people who will do anything to make some money.
Arrowood is not an easy person to like. He might have some redeeming qualities, but they are quickly lost in how he behaves and treats other people.
I like Mr. Barnett, somewhat. He knows he is not a good man; he knows he has evil deeds in his past and that he is not a gentleman of society. There is an honesty about him that makes these books tolerable.
There is also an awful lot of anger in Mr. Barnett; anger that he will at some point come to terms with.
If you are not frightened away by the gritty side of 1896 London, this is a very good mystery. There will be scenes that make you squirm with discomfort, but I wonder if that is what the author intends. Too many people romanticize Victorian society and how people lived.
I believe Mr. Finlay has portrayed more accurately how most common people lived; people who didn’t have a lot of money and definitely no power in their society.
I think Mr. Finlay wants people to understand that everything is not “Downton Abbey” or “Upstairs, Downstairs” in London 1896.