Murder by Ghostlight
Murder by Ghostlight is the latest installment in J. C. Briggs’ Charles Dickens & Superintendent Jones Investigate series. Having brought a production of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Money to Manchester, Charles Dickens discovers a dead body on the stage of the empty theatre and is immediately suspected of murder. With the aid of his friend Superintendent Jones of Bow Street and the local police, he sets out to prove his innocence and unravel a web of intrigue surrounding the dead man.
This is a fast-paced and page-turning tale, and the author clearly pays homage to Dickens both in the style of writing (Dickensian descriptions of poverty, industry and gloomy weather abound) but also in the colourfully named characters, such as razor-nosed Eva Stabb and solicitors Tape and Binding. The portrait of Dickens himself is a balanced one; while he enjoys fatherhood, he is a neglectful husband and though aware of his own flaws in many instances, he has a tendency to pomposity and the dramatic. This is a cleverly written Victorian mystery which will have broad appeal. While the author doesn’t stint on the gore, the narrative is witty and intriguing. Highly recommended for fans of Dickens, obviously, but also for anyone who enjoys Oscar de Muriel’s Frey and McGray series of Victorian mysteries, the Sherlock Holmes novels, or the novels of Diana Bretherick.