DEAD IMAGE by Joan Lock
Robert Hale  - 2000
ISBN: 0709065671 - Hardback

Reviewed by Rachel Hyde, MyShelf.Com
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Enter the charismatic half-Italian Sergeant Ernest Best into the familiar world of clattering hansom cabs, Whitechapel, Scotland Yard and pea soupers with his first case.  It is 1874 and there has just been an explosion in Regentís Park Ė are the Fenians to blame again, or is it something closer to home? All the bodies are not easily identified and it is Bestís job to found out who they are, and whodunit.  He has to explore the secretive world of the canal boats as well as the fashionable St Johnís Wood where artists ply their trade and models and patrons come and go.  His ally Ė or is she a suspect as well Ė is the formidable lady artist and flouter of convention Helen Franks, on the trail of her missing sister. Best is just getting over the untimely death of his beloved wife and what with romantic stirrings in his breast and a veritable cloud of victims, suspects and trails he has rather more on his plate than he bargained for.

It is difficult to bring something new to the well-worn groove that is the Victorian whodunit and Joan Lock doesnít manage it Ė but then again I donít think that is what she was aiming for.  This is a good example of the genre and excellently paced without a superfluous word that kept me guessing and entertained until the final page.  Perhaps the most interesting facet of the gem was the world of the canal boats and I confess to finding it well depicted enough but wanting to learn more about their hidden world that was so reviled in its day.  This novel was strong on plot and action but a few more telling details would have had me not merely reading but able to fancy myself there as well.  Nevertheless as this seems to be the start of a series of novels I will certainly be looking out for the next one and look forward to seeing how Best and his world develop.

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