The Blue and the Grey

Written by M.J. Trow
Review by Cindy Vallar

After witnessing Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865, Matthew Grand pursues John Wilkes Booth into the alley behind Ford’s Theatre, only to be thwarted by a mysterious Englishman. Undeterred, Grand continues to investigate until crossing paths with the head of the National Detective Police, who suspects that Grand may be one of the conspirators. The only way for him to prove his innocence is to go to London and track down the Englishman.

The same evening the president is slain, James Batchelor meets a prostitute whose body he later stumbles upon in a nearby alley. Arrested as a suspect, he’s eventually released by Inspector Tanner of Scotland Yard, who believes it’s advantageous having a journalist beholden to him. Tired of writing society-page stories, Batchelor sees the murder as his ticket to fame. Instead, his editor at the Telegraph fires him. Then two more women are garroted, a wealthy stranger is murdered on a ship bound for London, and Batchelor is hired to discover what Grand knows and why he’s in England. Grand refuses to discuss the night at Ford’s Theatre, but asks Batchelor to help him with his investigations. They soon realize there’s a connection between the Englishman in Washington, the murder on the ship, and the killer in London.

The murders of this intricately woven whodunit keep the reader guessing, but the plethora of characters make it difficult to keep track of who’s who. This first book in a new Victorian mystery series vividly recreates the sense of loss and shock that permeated Washington after the assassination, while providing a vibrant glimpse into the seamier side of 19th-century London.