The Devil’s Ribbon
Following on the success of Devoured, this novel returns to the exploits of pioneering forensic pathologist Adolphus Hatton and his assistant, Albert Roumande, in the unexpectedly mean streets of mid-19th century London. Reluctantly teamed once again with the dubious Inspector Grey of Scotland Yard, Hatton is soon confronted with a series of seemingly unconnected murders. Picking up a clue that points him in the direction of Irish terrorists, he finds himself dealing with strikes and even bomb blasts. Through all the violence he falls under the spell of the beautiful wife of one of the victims, a circumstance that threatens his objectivity and possibly even his life.
This mystery is expertly rendered. Cholera ridden districts of London are believably described in all their squalor as are the characters, people of their time, complete with all the prejudice and ignorance appropriate to the relatively uneducated of the 19th century. Even the inspector is not spared; he is a person who is more than willing to skirt the law in his zeal to maintain order.
The work is masterfully researched, rich in its depiction of the budding science of pathology as well as its information on early crime detection methods. If the novel is overflowing with violence, it is never gratuitous, stemming instead from the rampant injustice of those times. Add in the author’s obvious talent for writing, we have an excellent historical mystery that is well worth a reader’s time.