A Case of Spirits

Written by Peter Lovesey
Review by John R. Vallely

Peter Lovesey richly deserves the many awards and honors bestowed upon him since his premier novel, the extravagantly titled Wobble to Death, in 1970. Two characters introduced in this Victorian period crime novel, Sergeant Cribb and Constable Thackeray of Scotland Yard, would live on as principles in the seven follow-up Sergeant Cribb books. Sadly, the series came to an end when Lovesey turned his attention to writing for a television series starring Cribb and Thackeray. These novels had been long out of print, but Soho Constable has done us all a favor by bringing our indefatigable protectors of law and order back.

A Case of Spirits brings the good sergeant and the loyal constable into a London caught up in a spiritualism fad prompted by attempts by the naïve wealthy to communicate with the dead. The authorities are first called in when art thieves strike homes of rich Londoners attending séances. Charlatans and their trusting victims quickly have to adjust to the cold eye of the skeptical and thoroughly practical sergeant. The investigation takes a turn when one séance features the electrocution of a participant. Cribb and Thackeray solve the mystery and test their readers’ intelligence by an elaborate reenactment scene at the novel’s conclusion. Be forewarned, you will suffer in Scotland Yard’s eyes if the solution catches you off guard.