Interviewing The Dead (Carlyle & West Victorian Mysteries)

Written by David Field
Review by J. Lynn Else

London, 1892. After a popular spiritualist predicts revenge upon the city for disturbing a 1665 mass grave, people begin seeing vengeful spirits appear at night. Hysteria spreads quickly through London’s East End as its residents begin dying from mysterious causes. Wesleyan minister Matthew West and surgeon Dr. James Carlyle, though at odds religiously, will find themselves working together to determine the cause of these supernatural incidents. It’s going to take both their realms of expertise to stop the curse before it’s too late for the citizens of London.

The author is comfortable bringing to life Victorian-era society and its nuances. It’s easy to slip into the narration. There are captivating Sherlock-esque examinations of the victims, too. However, this is a dialogue-heavy read that approaches the plot very clinically. It’s light emotionally with little character development. Dr Carlyle’s daughter, Adelaide Carlyle, wants to carve a place for women in a man’s world, but she’s constantly spewing vitriol at everyone. Some subtle wit and careful thought to her arguments would have given her credibility. Instead, she comes across as hot-headed, always on the defensive, and showing little compassion for those around her. I didn’t buy into the potential romance between her and Matthew, either. In terms of mystery elements, the characters are often far removed from the incidents, so the stakes are low. The mentalist aspects are quite intriguing, but key solutions came about more by accident than from investigative work. While I’m not sure if I’d continue with the series, there’s a lot of potential here for future sleuthing adventures, with Field’s differing character viewpoints and well-defined setting.