The Island: A Grand and Batchelor Victorian Mystery

Written by M.J. Trow
Review by Tom Vallar

The post-Civil War adventures continue for London-based enquiry agents Matthew Grand and James Batchelor. It’s 1873, and Matthew’s sister Martha is marrying a blueblood at one of the family estates, this one on the coast of Maine. After Matthew has to stand in for the missing best man, things turn from bad to worse when both a lady’s maid and Matthew’s uncle have their heads bashed in.

The remoteness of the area means the Boston cops (the closest to be found) arrive after Grand and Batchelor have already begun the investigation. Our heroes’ suspects include a famous newspaper reporter chasing a story with connections to Tammany Hall; Mark Twain (a distant relative of the Grands); and the black sheep of the family, who unexpectedly returns after 14 years on a whaling ship. The kindly nanny, the formidable butler, and a former flame of Matthew’s (who is now attracted to James) complete the cast of quirky family and friends.

Trow clearly has fun peopling his mysteries with such folks, and the dialogue is a delight. The skeletons falling out of the closets provide a plethora of red herrings before the mystery is solved. Nevertheless, the sleuthing falls far short in this offering, as if Grand and Batchelor were sleep-walking through the adventure.