The Children of Silence
In the summer of 1880 workmen digging in a filthy London canal basin uncover human remains. The wife of a missing businessman engages proto-female detective Frances Doughty to investigate, and hopes that Frances will also be able to rescue her from the clutches of her evil brother-in-law. As we follow the adventures of Frances and her trusty assistant Sarah through murder, blackmail and general mayhem, another corpse enters the fray, and the succession of possible suspects, with a liberal sprinkling of red herrings, keeps us guessing through to the inevitable showdown.
This mystery novel is the fifth in the Frances Doughty series but performs well as a stand-alone work. Stratmann’s characters are well drawn, and her initial description of the Paddington Canal Basin is memorable. Her detective story is worthy of Conan-Doyle himself, whilst her subtle wit and reflection of the social mores of Victorian times are reminiscent of Jane Austen. She weaves the thread of her plot through the early days of sign language and education for ‘the deaf’, as well as the Suffragette Movement and the general disapprobation of men towards Frances’s chosen career.
An enjoyable and entertaining read, The Children of Silence has made me want to delve deeper into the adventures of Frances and Sarah.