A Rip Through Time
Armstrong’s novel requires the suspension of disbelief: a woman nearly murdered and left for dead wakes up 150 years earlier. Just before she’s attacked in an Edinburgh alley in 2019, Police Detective Mallory Atkinson has fleeting images of a girl in the same alleyway wearing period dress and crying for help. She awakens in a strange bed in the body of that very woman, Catriona Mitchell, a maidservant in Edinburgh in 1859.
The murder mysteries each feature a hemp rope used to strangle victims. Although this story resembles Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series with time-travel in Scotland and modern knowledge of medicine brought to the earlier period, Mallory finds herself in mid-Victorian times rather than Jacobite. She wants to return to her own era, her dying grandmother in Edinburgh, and her job in Canada. But she doesn’t know how, so as Catriona, she may as well learn about 19th-century forensics and perhaps help her employer, Dr. Gray, a physician/undertaker, and his detective friend, in solving murders. She develops a friendship with her employer’s sister, a chemist. Mallory discovers that pretty as Catriona was and just nineteen, her character was dubious. Can Mallory rectify the damage she’s done, while blaming her personality change on the attack, which affected her memory? What if Catriona is now in her body, wreaking havoc on her 21st-century life?
Besides being a dual-time murder mystery, A Rip Through Time is a psychological thriller. Armstrong’s varied characters, lively writing style, and complex plot tempt us to binge read. In Catriona’s body, Mallory observes limitations of the class system; prejudices, as Dr. Gray is half Indian; and particularly what’s allowed women in Victorian England, and how they connect female stereotypes in fiction. The ending suggests a sequel, which I look forward to. Highly recommended.