Tracking down a killer

2008-10-02 08:05

BILLED as “The First Pyke Mystery”, this has the look of a good historical whodunnit, something I thought would be ideal for a wet weekend. Set in London in 1829, with the Duke of Wellington as prime minister and Sir Robert Peel as home secretary, it deals with the gruesome murders of a young couple and a baby. Former Bow Street Runner Pyke, a man who operates on both sides of the law, finds the bodies and becomes involved in tracking down the killer.

It is a convoluted tale, set against the backdrop of the end of the Bow Street Runners and the beginning of the “Peelers”, the new, theoretically more controllable police force based in Scotland Yard. English and Irish politics and sectarian violence play their part, along with horrific casual violence and corruption. It depicts a society where life is cheap and everyone has their price. Sounds familiar.

All the ingredients seem to be there, but I found it a struggle to get to the end. Pyke, despite the breathless praise printed inside the book, is an unlikeable anti-hero and Emily, his love interest, failed to become more than a cipher. The cover looks good, but I'm afraid, for me, it started and ended there.

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