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Friday 23 October 2015

'The Children of Silence' by Linda Stratmann

Published by The Mystery Press,
April 2015.
ISBN 978-0-7509-6010-6

Heroine of a series of adventures is Frances Doughty, lady detective in the Victorian era.  Frances has established a healthy business even though she is seen by many males as doing a totally unsuitable job for a woman and frequently told that she should be looking for a husband.  Hers is an equivocal role which crosses many boundaries.  She is asked to undertake a variety of tasks varying from small to large for a cross-section of the local population.    Queries about the veracity of information given by prospective employees, husbands, business partners and members of groups are a major part of the work. 

The major case in this book concerns the need to identify the skeleton discovered in the process of draining the Paddington basin in 1880.  Later another body is found in the cellar of a building being demolished.  Mrs. Harriet Antrobus wishes to identify one of these bodies as that of her husband, Edwin, who disappeared several years earlier - without any body being found then his will cannot be proved.  The background of this area of Victorian London is, as always in Linda Stratmann's novels, impeccably described.  Not only buildings, clothes and foods but also contemporary attitudes really show during the activities of the book.

The minutiae of Frances' work is interspersed during the investigation of these serious events.  She has to visit an asylum and a school for the deaf in the course of her work and deals with a character with serious hearing difficulties of an unusual type.  In Sherlockian style Frances uses a group of poor boys as her eyes and ears in some circumstances; she also has a maid who has become a stalwart companion with her sturdy support and her physical skills.

The original case wanders through convoluted routes as Frances attempts to deal with many dead ends but eventually she reaches a solution to the initial mystery.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
This is the 5th adventure for Frances Doughty.

Linda Stratmann was born in the city of Leicester on 4 April 1948. Linda attended Medway Street Infants and Junior School, in the days of the eleven plus, and from there went to Wyggeston Girls Grammar School. Her earliest ambition was to be an astronomer, and she read and wrote a great deal of science fiction. She also read biology, zoology and medicine, and seriously considered a medical career. But by her teens, she had developed an absorbing and life-long interest in true crime, probably taking after her mother who loved to read about famous trials.  Linda took her A levels and went to Newcastle University in 1971, graduating with first class honours in psychology three years later. She then joined the civil service, and trained to be an Inspector of Taxes.  In 1987, unable to resist the pull of London she moved there, married her second husband, Gary in 1993. In 2001 she left the civil service, and started a new career as a freelance writer and sub-editor, and in 2002 was commissioned to write her first published book on the history of Chloroform.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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