Thursday, September 10, 2015

Book Review: A Metropolitan Murder

After reading the interesting treatise on filth in Victorian London, Dirty Old London, I decided to see if my library carried any other of Lee Jackson's titles. Indeed, I was thrilled to find a novel in audio form. A Metropolitan Murder takes place in the 1860's around the time of the advent of the underground railway. It is clearly the work of someone who has researched Victorian London thoroughly. Jackson captures the flavor and scent of the city, the personality and attitudes of its various classes.

When the second-class Metropolitan Railway carriage pulls into the Baker Street station, the remaining passengers are ushered off the train. One passenger, a red-haired woman of questionable character, does not stir ... cannot stir, because she has been strangled. The man who discovers her body flees the scene and becomes a suspect, and Inspector Decimus Webb is determined to bring the woman's murderer to justice. Along the way, he learns of two other murders.

The book is a complete picture of Victorian society, with the matron running the Holborn Refuge, a hospice for wayward women, a variety of criminal sorts, a young woman trying to work her way out of a life of crime, and a Doctor intent upon rescuing and reforming these young women. Everything seems to come back to Agnes White, the roommate of the murdered woman, but no one can fathom why. Things are not always what they appear and the motives run deeper than could be imagined.

At the end of the book on CD, there was a postscript by the author. He takes the time to outline the history of the underground railroad. Moreover, he points out that he selected this time period because it corresponds to the actual first railway murder recorded in London in 1964. If you are at all interested in Victorian history, this book provides a fascinating mystery to accompany the descriptive bits.

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