Against the Light: An Irish Nationalist Mystery set in Edwardian London

Written by Marjorie Eccles
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In 1912, with the disaster of the Titanic headlining the newspapers, young Dr. Alice Latimer bicycles across London from her clinic in the slums to Manessa House, her home near Regent’s Park. Although owned by her MP husband, Edmund, the mansion is shared with Edmund’s sister, her husband, and their seven-month-old baby, Lucy. Alice is somewhat annoyed because her cousin, Dudley, has overstayed his visit and her husband is working late hours due to the debates on the Irish Home Rule bill. Dudley departs mysteriously without leaving a note, and then their peace is shattered when Lucy is kidnapped from her pram in Regent’s Park. The two policemen assigned to the case are also investigating the recent grisly murder of a young man in a taxicab. The Irish sergeant believes that one of the suspects drove his girlfriend back in Ireland to suicide.

Alice wonders if there might be a connection between the kidnapping and the Irish Bill, leading to further disruption of their lives. She is drawn into the investigation, resulting in surprising revelations.

A stand-alone book, Marjorie Eccles’ tenth novel sits a bit in contrast to her earlier works, which are mostly apolitical.  Here she has commendably portrayed life in the Edwardian era, including the public’s anxieties stemming from the labor strikes, the suffragette movement, the Irish question, and talk of war in Europe. The lives of the underprivileged in London’s slums are contrasted against those of the upper classes. Although some aspects seem implausible, the interweaving of these facets into the murder-mystery plot adds to the enjoyment. The inclusion of issues of Irish nationalism and Parliamentary deliberations on the Irish Bill are handled deftly and don’t overwhelm the story. An enjoyable read.