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Saturday 5 December 2015

'Death at Hungerford Stairs' by J. C. Briggs

Published by The Mystery Press
ISBN 978-0-7509-6417-3

The title is followed by the statement - Charles Dickens and Superintendent Jones investigate.  They certainly do so.  The tale begins in November 1849 when the famous novelist, Charles Dickens, and his friend, Superintendent Jones are searching for a lost boy.  The boy is Scrap and he himself has gone in search of a lost dog - Poll.  There is some suspicion that a thief has taken Poll and intends to sell her or to ask her owner to pay a ransom disguised as a finder's fee.

A reader of the previous book by Jean Briggs will  be familiar with these characters and, although this is a stand alone story I think that a new reader would enjoy reading the previous book, The Murder of Patience Brooke  first.  Both these books show a superb picture of Dickensian  London and a detailed knowledge of the works and life of Charles Dickens.  He is writing David Copperfield at this time and some of the events and characters he is embroiled in or meets during this story resonate with David Copperfield.

Dickens and  the superintendent find themselves investigating the murders of several young boys.  Their search for the murderer takes them in to the slums of London and to Brighton and abroad.  Always the sympathy of the two men for the unfortunates that they meet is palpable and in a number of cases they do offer help to the bereaved and lost.

This is a cleverly crafted story with magnificent period detail to flesh out the circumstances in large and small ways.  All the characters whether major or minor ring true in this Dickensian London.  The eventual solution is very satisfying.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer

J. C. Briggs taught English for many years in schools in Cheshire, Hong Kong and Lancashire. She now lives in a cottage in Cumbria with her husband who is an artist.  The Murder of Patience Brooke, featuring Charles Dickens as a detective is the first in a proposed series in which Dickens and Superintendent Jones of Bow Street investigate some dark deeds. The idea of Dickens as a detective came about when she read Dickens’s articles about the London police in his periodical Household Words. Dickens was fascinated by police investigation and by murder, in particular – there are plenty of murderers in his writing, and Dickens is credited with the creation of the first literary detective in Inspector Bucket who solves the murder of Mr Tulkinghorn in Bleak House.

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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