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The Circle
A Grand and Batchelor Victorian Mystery - Book II
M J Trow

Severn House
29 January 2016 (US: June 1, 2016) / ISBN 978-1780290836
Historical Mystery

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde


Captain Matthew Grand and his sidekick reporter James Bachelor are working as private detectives in London when Grand receives a summons from his cousin Luther. Lafayette Baker, the head of the US National Detective Police has been murdered and Luther is keen for Grand to uncover whodunit. The pair travel to Washington and Bachelor, gets his first experience of the States, a country still recovering from the recent Civil War. What ensues is a trail of clues and red herrings that will have them chasing down South and encountering the newly minted Ku Klux Klan as well as glamorous spy Belle Boyd.

This is the second in the series about this pair of detectives and there is a lot to recommend it, as I tend to find with all books by this author. As well as the tortuous plot that will keep readers on their toes, there is the usual trademark dry wit and a real sense of immersion in the period. Trow paints a lifelike picture of Reconstruction with people still reeling from the war, the South defeated and suffering and the North enjoying a rather edgy peace. This was the time of carpetbaggers and Klan lynchings, and instantly the pair find themselves unable to trust anybody in a very different country from what Grand remembers. Grand's war history makes him a villain in many peoples' eyes while Bachelor provides some comic relief as the quintessential innocent abroad. I enjoyed the first in this series, The Blue and the Gray (also reviewed on this site), but thought this entry better as there are a lot of novels about foggy Victorian London but not so many set in Reconstruction era America. Expect plenty of action, a frisson of romance and a novel that feels like anything but a history lesson but will leave the reader feeling as though they have just visited the States in 1868. I look forward to reading more of this series.

Reviewed 2016