When an author sets out to write a detective mystery that is set in Victorian England, she is joining an illustrious circle with such authors as Arthur Conan Doyle and Wilkie Collins, who lived during the period, thus giving them a leg up in the veracity of their world-building. One of my favourites is Anne Perry, whose William Monk series has the added advantage of being written to appeal to the modern audience. So Shauna Reppert has a high bar set for her. Not only must she match up to our expectations of accurate social and physical setting description, she must create a suitably complex mystery, intriguing yet appropriate characters, and that something special that makes the novel more than just another copycat.
With one of those triumphs of creativity that puts together two old elements in a new way, Reppert has taken the standard Victorian detective novel and introduced a paranormal element. Other writers of this genre have used Jews, foreigners, or homosexuals as the downtrodden minority that helps the broadminded detective solve his cases. Reppert uses werewolves. She also resists the temptation to gild the lily with all sorts of other fancy magic and metaphysics. The conflict resolution in this novel rests solely on the creativity of the writer, not on specious magical talents that appear at need.
Just to make it more interesting, the alliance is a very uncomfortable fit, being of disparate social class for one thing, and having got off on a very wrong foot (for excellent reasons) at the beginning of the story. This conflict continues throughout the novel, as we see individuals with differences learning respect for each other. Great stuff for readers of the modern age.
In other respects this is a fairly typical novel of its genre. The lower-class detective is Royston Jones. Using advanced forensic techniques and his own clever brain, he fights the bigotry and class dominance of his society to protect those who deserve it. I have often thought that this genre tends to a general holier-than-thou-ness about the foibles of the turn of the last century, but it is no wonder, given that the lingering social defects of that era continue to do so much damage in ours, so I will not complain too loudly. As in most other books of the sort, our hero is a modern man, bridging the gap in a rather unrealistic way between the Victorian era and the modern reader.
The crime-solving part of the story contains a decent amount of twists and revelations, but it takes a back seat to the interpersonal and social relationships that create the best of the conflict.
Highly recommended for fans of paranormal and of Victorian detective works.
(5 / 5)