I really enjoy Victorian mysteries, so was pleased to accept a copy of this book from the author. I should note first off that this is the third book in the D.S. Billings Victorian Mystery series, and I much prefer to read a series in order, but was willing to read Book 3 on the assertion of the author that these can fairly stand alone (and that’s generally true of mystery novels).
The book begins with the mysterious disappearance of Julius Dunne-Smythe, who is in the coffee business, and his family. They are seen one morning by the household staff getting into a carriage and they haven’t been heard from. Dunne-Smythe’s business partner uncovers evidence of embezzlement, which leads to the case to Scotland Yard.
I enjoyed Bosman’s book. Evaluating a mystery novel is always a bit challenging. The things I like to think about are, first and foremost, are the characters interesting and well developed? Does the mystery itself keep me engaged and make sense? And does the book provide a good sense of the time and place? That, after all, is why I like historical mysteries so much.
I think Bosman’s development of his main character is the strength of this novel (and probably the series, though I can’t speak for the other two books). Billings is depicted as a lonely character who is struggling with morphine addiction and has not accepted his homosexuality. Clearly he’s living in a time when being gay will not be acceptable at work or in society; and yet it’s really his emotional struggle with the issue that I found most compelling. Added to that, he’s having trouble with his supervisor at Scotland Yard, although he seems to feel good about his work. I found him interesting and sympathetic, though terribly sad. I especially liked the way he develops some insights about friendship as the story progresses.
I also really enjoyed Bosman’s depiction of Scotland Yard, and the fact that the detectives travel to various places to resolve the mystery, including Belgium. There isn’t a lot of historical information but the book is very atmospheric. The morphine addiction is interesting and I wanted to know more about how it’s perceived at that time.
The mystery is pretty straightforward, but takes a gruesome turn late in the story, which I found a bit upsetting. There’s always plenty of death and violence in a mystery novel, but this book had a certain type of violence which I just wasn’t ready for and found jarring in terms of the story. Of course if you want your mysteries to be creepy (and that’s kind of the point, I suppose) this one definitely is.
While Bosman leaves his hero in a fairly negative “place” I didn’t mind that, because Billings’ issues are serious and I would hate any suggestion that they can be resolved easily. I’m interested to know more about his growth in the first two books, and will be quite interested to see how he grows in the next book.
I received a copy of this book from author Olivier Bosman. The book was published by Rocket Man Press on June 11, 2017.