THE DARK KINGDOM
by Norman Russell
This is the second outing for Inspector Jackson and his bibulous but astute sidekick Sergeant Bottomley of the Warwickshire Police. This time they are investigating two seemingly unconnected murders - one of a country girl who has been jilted by her "gentleman" suitor after she discovers she is pregnant and is subsequently found dead from poison and the other of a revered schoolmaster. Kingsmere Abbey School would seem on the surface to be an admirable institution for boys with some excellent masters but something rotten lurks beneath the surface. Soon the intrepid pair, aided and abetted by national hero turned classics master Captain Noel Valentine start uncovering some startling facts about just about everybody that lead them to many distant parts of the country and back into the past, but the evil that lurks in the present is far more dangerous.
I enjoyed the first novel in the series The Dried-Up Man but this sequel was its superior in every way, the pace being faster, the plot more teasing and yet less far-fetched in some ways. What marred the first book for me was the fact that although it was the 1890s the inhabitants of a Warwickshire village had some surprisingly antique superstitions that would have been better suited to the 1790s. However, nothing of that nature arises to spoil the story this time and I was caught up in a thrilling adventure that Holmes and Watson would have enjoyed enormously. If the third book is anything like this I hope it is out soon! Tautly written and full of surprises and atmosphere.
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