Dream of the Dead by M.G. Scarsbrook

ImageI’ve been reading a lot of mysteries lately, and this was one I very much enjoyed.  I generally prefer historical mysteries to modern-day, but this one had an interesting setting (the Theater District in London) and interesting characters (a former stage actor turned detective).  It caught my attention quickly and kept it.

I find it difficult to review mysteries, since they tend to be pretty similar and follow a logical progression.  This one had many of the usual components: a tough, edgy cop; a young, female partner.  Witnesses who die mysteriously just when they have critical information to share.  But it was well-written and had a good story.

Here’s a brief synopsis.  Jack Ravenshaw is a detective who comes from a well-known theater family.  He dropped out of acting after he witnessed his father’s murder, a case he’s never come close to solving.  He’s living in small town England but gets transferred to London so he can consult on a case involving a theater producer because they need someone who can understand theater talk.  Which makes a lot of sense.

The murder in question is a gruesome one.  Producer Charlie Maitland apparently drank a glass of water with enough poison in it that basically, over the course of a few days, burned through his intestines.  A messy, painful death.  The mystery is that while he’s conscious for a few days, he never accuses anyone of poisoning him, leading the police to think suicide.  On the other hand, no one would kill themselves like that.

The writing stood out to me.  I noticed the vocabulary was pretty “elevated” for a mystery.  I had to look up words a few times, which I always appreciate.  Did you know “loured” is a word?  Scarsbrook also cleverly uses made up words like “mumpreneur” and “fauxpology”.  Some may find the language distracting, but I enjoyed it.

I would recommend this book to anyone who liked The Cuckoo’s Calling.  Like that book, this is less of a thriller, more of a traditional mystery, in that one clue leads the detectives to the next clue, which leads to the next one.  Which is what I like in a mystery.  There’s a nice attention to detail in this book, from the theater setting (which includes a theater cat) to the type of drug used in the murder.

I really liked the character of Ravenshaw, and his complicated relationship with his family.  However, the character of assistant detective Emily Hart needed fleshing out, and I hope she will be in future books.  I couldn’t tell whether I liked her or not, or even whether Jack grows to like her or not.  Sometimes she seems incompetent, and other times she really contributes as a partner.  Again, though, Scarsbrook pays attention to details and she doesn’t seem like just a trope (e.g. the rule-bound assistant and the rule-breaking detective).

This is a very promising start to a series, and worth reading if you like London, theater, or just are looking for a new mystery.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  For more information about Scarsbrook, see his website.

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