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Death Notes
Phineas Fox Mystery – Book I
Sarah Rayne

Severn House
30 September 2016/ ISBN 9780727886606

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde


Researcher Phineas Fox is not keen that a TV company wants him to research the life of notorious violinist Roman Volf. The man was a bad lot who played a part in Tsar Alexander’s assassination in 1881 and was hanged for it, but the sum offered for the job is too much of a temptation so he accepts. The more Phin looks into Volf’s life, the more it looks as though he was innocent, and soon his work takes him to a remote part of Ireland’s west coast. There he plays a part in solving not only Volf’s mystery, but in several others as well.

I had read and reviewed one of this author’s supernatural stories recently (The Bell Tower) and expected more of the same; this book is nothing like that. Instead this is the first in a new series of mysteries that is likely to appeal to readers of authors like Kate Ellis and Elly Griffiths. Told from several viewpoints, this intricate novel brings together the linked stories of not only Roman Volf, but the mysterious Maxim Volf, a scarred recluse, a lonely widow and a young girl with a secret. Maybe swallowing not one but two cases of amnesia is a bit of a stretch, but I found it fitted in with the almost spooky ambience of old secrets. The characters all spring to life apart from Phin, who remains elusive and seems to have no color of his own. Maybe in later books the reader will get to know him, but for the moment he remains a cipher used to bring all the elements together. That aside, this book is one to savor for the well-crafted treat that it is – perfect for long winter evenings and, hopefully, the first of many.

Reviewed 2016