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Monday 19 March 2012
‘Dead Image’ by Joan Lock
Set in 1874, the explosion aboard the canal boat Tilbury on an October evening in the fashionable St John's Wood area, is the backdrop to this intriguing mystery. For following the recovery of the bodies of boatmen William Taylor and the lad, and eventually the mangled body of skipper Charles Baxton, the rescuers find a fourth body, that of a slight woman with fair hair not facially recognizable. For Sergeant Ernest Best identification is further complicated when he discovers that only the Captain’s are known to the manager of the Grand Junction Canal traffic. As is explained to him, all the Captains take on their own crew. So could the Captain have had his wife on board, he asks?
As the investigation progresses and several likely possibilities are eliminated, Best is faced with a widening number of avenues to investigate, the barmaid, Liza Moody missing from The Three Tuns Public House since September 30th. But as the clothing seems of good quality, possibly a lady from one of the house's in St John's Wood that border the canal, or a Lady's maid who has received the good linen from her mistress. Or, maybe another victim of the Thames murderer?
Joan Lock paints an interesting portrait of life in 1874, and the problems for a young Sergeant faced with interviewing the rich and privileged in order to uncover a murderer, and obtain justice for those less fortunate.
In the course of his investigations Ernest Best meets Helen Franks, whose sister Matilda is missing. When Best discovers that Helen has taken art lessons from Lawrence Alma-Tadema, whose house was damaged in the explosion, the case becomes even more complicated, as does his relationship with Helen Franks.
A fascinating insight into life in 1874 coupled with marvelous characterization, and an intriguing, and most satisfying mystery.
This is the first book in which we meet Detective Sergeant Ernest Best. There are a further six books in this highly acclaimed series - all excellent mysteries.