A Rare Interest in Corpses
In Victorian England many a penniless young woman of ‘good’ family found that the only form of paid employment available was as a ‘companion’ to a better-off widow. Such a young woman is Elizabeth Martin, who arrives in London from Derbyshire in 1864 after the death of her doctor father. Almost immediately she learns that her predecessor, who disappeared some weeks earlier, has been found murdered. Lizzie is soon drawn into the search for the killer, much against the wishes of her employer. She also renews acquaintance with Benjamin Ross, once a pit boy in her home village, now a rising young police inspector.
This book is clearly intended as the first in a series featuring Lizzie and Ben as a detective partnership. At times the period detail comes near to being laid on with a trowel, and some of the characters are taken from stock; it comes as no surprise that Lizzie reads Darwin and wears her social conscience on her sleeve. But if you can get past the slow early chapters it becomes an interesting read, culminating in that staple of the Victorian crime novel, the chase through the pea soup fog.