The Ring: A Victorian Mystery (A Grand & Batchelor Mystery)

Written by M.J. Trow
Review by Franca Pelaccia

Set during the1870s in London, The Ring finds private inquiry agents Matthew Grand and James Batchelor hired by oddball timber merchant Selwyn Byng to find his kidnapped wife. Byng can’t involve police, or his wife will be killed. Since Byng isn’t forthcoming and there are too many holes in his story, Grand and Batchelor begin a half-hearted investigation. But when body parts start resurfacing in the River Thames and one part may belong to Byng’s wife, the private inquiry agents need to involve the River Police but also corrupt officials to get to the bottom of the kidnapping and the body parts.

The tone of The Ring is light-hearted. The witty banter between Grand and Batchelor is amusing, as well as the colourful characters of the River Police Chief Daddy Bliss, the hard-working Doctor Kempster, the Puritanical housekeeper Mrs. Rackstraw, and the lawyer-thug Richard Knowes. But on resolution, the plot turns twisted and ugly, upsetting the light-hearted ending I expected. The large cast of characters is difficult to keep straight, especially when his or her part in the plot is miniscule to extraneous and thrown in simply to keep the reader off the scent.

The Ring is an enjoyable read until the resolution of the kidnapping and the body parts. Then, it isn’t funny any longer.