Down a Dark River (An Inspector Corravan Mystery)

Written by Karen Odden
Review by Valerie Adolph

Set in London in 1878, this mystery novel introduces a new Scotland Yard detective—Inspector Michael Corravan. Much of this novel serves as an introduction to his complex and surprisingly introverted character. Raised in the slums of London, he is an ex-bare-knuckles boxer with a knowledge not only of London and its policing but also of the River Thames, its characters, its tides, and its own criminal underworld.

The crimes he and his assistant, Stiles, face involve a series of young women found dead in small boats floating down the river. All seem to be much-loved single women of good character and good family. Until one day one of the women is found to be married and pregnant, also hurt but still alive. This is the tiny opening Corravan has been hoping for.

His hunt for the killer takes him into a wide variety of homes inhabited by families with Victorian upper-class values, the nuances of each beautifully delineated by the author. In this, the novel is very reminiscent of those of Anne Perry. The characters are true to the time and place in every detail, and the story moves swiftly and pleasurably along to a gripping and fitting climax.

The development of the difficult but rewarding personality of Corravan is focal in this novel, and one of its most satisfying aspects. His often-uncomfortable relationship with his supervisor, Vincent, and his somewhat checkered past history on the river offer promise for future novels. He, together with his lady and his assistant, Stiles, are characters developed to be so exasperating and satisfying that the reader cannot help but hope for more.

A most pleasurable novel, impossible to put down.