Depths of Deceit

Written by Norman Russell
Review by Stephanie Hochadel

A young chemist is found murdered in an ancient Roman temple in London in August 1894. He died of a blow to the head, and his mouth was filled with honey. A small disc with the scraped drawing of a rampant lion is discovered in his pockets. Another body is found in Carshalton, on the outskirts of London, on the same day bearing the same injuries and a similar disc. This time the victim is a wealthy industrial magnate.

Detective Inspector Arnold Box of Scotland Yard is called to investigate. Together with his sidekick, Sergeant Jack Knollys, he unravels a sinister plot. Were both men murdered as part of a pagan ritual by a secret society dabbling in ancient religions?

In his quest, Box encounters a triumphant archaeologist, the man’s unsuccessful adversary, a lady with in-depth knowledge of pagan cults, the magnate’s widow and daughter, united in their contempt for one another, and a maid with more knowledge than sense. Heeding advice from his superior, Box discards all fanciful theories and focuses on the hard facts. He soon has the killer in his sights.

Depths of Deceit is a traditional crime novel: innocent victims, scheming murderers, a detective overcoming his doubts, and a clear and satisfying solution. Norman Russell knows how to draw a reader into the storyline, and he brings Victorian London vividly to life. However, I was a little confused as some dates and times seem to be mixed up. But this should not deter anyone from reading this novel.

An intriguing murder plot with a fitting ending, this is highly recommended reading for fans of historical crime fiction.