Murder at the Manchester Museum

Written by Jim Eldridge
Review by Douglas Kemp

Private investigators Daniel Wilson and Abigail Fenton return for their fourth adventure in the series that features murder and mystery in an English museum. It is 1895, and the pair has been requested to travel to Manchester to investigate the murders of two unidentified women in the city museum.  The usual ingredients are here – puzzling deaths, a range of characters attached to the museum, and an obstructive and aggressive local police force, suspicious of the presence of our heroic pair. In this case, the local police refuse to make more than a cursory investigation of the two deaths, as the victims are unknown and seemingly unimportant, and there is no evidence to indicate a perpetrator or a motive.   Launching into the case, Daniel and Abigail soon identify the two women, and the game is well and truly afoot. The case involves malfeasance in the local army barracks, as well as police corruption, and Wilson and Fenton are exposed to the depth of Manchester’s poverty, to the wealth of middle and upper-class life and to radical politics in the city.

The story races along in agreeable style, capably plotted and easy to read. There are a few examples of speech that is not commensurate with late 19th-century usage, but nothing too egregious, as well as a few history lessons for the reader  in the text that need to be incorporated into the narrative by the writer in  a more nuanced way. The solution is neat and wraps affairs up nicely, though it runs foul of one of Ronald Knox’s “Ten Commandments” for detective fiction. I like the series, and although the two main characters have not developed much over the series, they are a pleasure to know and I look forward to more thrilling adventures.