The Curse of the House of Foskett

Written by M.R.C. Kasasian
Review by Helene Williams

Victorian-era personal detective Sidney Grice and his ward, March Middleton, are back for more gruesome sleuthing in the second installment of Kasasian’s London-based series. In the debut volume, Grice unfortunately sent an innocent man to his death, and his reputation, as well as his morale, has flagged. When a member of the Final Death Society seeks out Grice for assistance in proving that members of the Society are dying of natural causes, and then promptly dies in Grice’s study, detective and protégée become embroiled in a complicated case with a plethora of suspects and unexpected twists.

The action is fast, the dialogue is witty, and the reader’s attention is kept engaged until Grice figures out who’s behind the spate of murders—with Middleton’s help, of course. The many characters—dead and alive—provide less of a snapshot and more of a caricature of Victorian life, from Molly the untrained housekeeper to Baroness Foskett, heiress Primrose McKay, Dr. Dorna Berry, and Warrington Gallup the snuff seller. Much of the propriety of the Victorian era is seen through Middleton’s eyes; as a young single woman, she confronts the restrictive mores of the time, nearly always brashly and sarcastically pushing her way past the barriers in her way. More than once she loses, however, whether she’s physically overpowered by a scoundrel or hoodwinked by a clever journalist. Readers also begin to get Middleton’s backstory through a series of diary entries and dreams that reveal a therapist’s treasure trove of guilt and trauma.

While the narrative is entertaining, the frequent referrals to Grice’s previous mishandled case means this one has trouble standing on its own; readers are encouraged to start with The Mangle Street Murders to get the most out of this volume.