DR MORTIMER AND THE BARKING
MAN MYSTERY by Gerard Williams
Constable - 2001
ISBN 184119316X - Hardcover
Reviewed by Rachel Hyde,
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This is the second adventure featuring Dr James Mortimer, the Devon doctor who appears briefly in The Hound of The Baskervilles, but here he is given free rein once again to try his own skills as a detective together with Dr Violet Branscombe to whom he is now married. The year is now 1891 and he the pair have just returned from their honeymoon to find that the papers are full of the murder of General Ostyankin and the prime suspect is a young revolutionary called Solomon Solomons whose sweetheart just happens to be a woman to whom Violet owes her life. Thus they are plunged into a bewildering case involving a syphilitic young man and his family, child prostitution, Russians, revolutionaries and assorted East Enders.
Clattering hansom cabs, anarchist cafes, kidnappings and games of chess with revolutionaries…all here and the game is afoot for Drs Mortimer and Branscombe as they pit their wits against London’s seedy underworld in the best tradition of the ever popular Victorian whodunit. I found the first book (Dr Mortimer and the Aldgate Mystery) a little too thin as regards the plot but this second outing for the sleuths has so much plot packed into it that it fairly bursts at the seams and indeed bewilders as often as it enlightens. Nevertheless this is certainly a thrilling and action-packed tale – so much so that I wished that Gerard Williams had created a pair of more vividly-drawn detectives to put into it as Mortimer and Branscombe are lacklustre figures slotted into the gripping story merely to solve the case. Sometimes I wished that they hadn’t been worthy doctors with an East End practice as this motif seems to have been done to death already but I will be looking out for book three.
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