21 January 2016.
Edinburgh, 1864. The newly-promoted Sergeant Faro is content with his life. His beloved wife, Lizzie, has carried this coming child to full term, and his stepson, Vince, is at last beginning to accept him. Then Vince finds the old bookseller he helps out dead...
Having rounded off her Victorian detective series with Inspector Jeremy Faro retired, and happy at last with his companion, Imogen Crowe, Knight has returned to write about his early life, and Akin to Murder is the third of these ‘prequels’. It’s ingeniously plotted, weaving the mysterious Charlie that Vince befriends with a missing housemaid, an old lady’s coffin being opened to reveal stones, and an escaped murderer that Faro’s boss, the unpleasant Inspector Gosse, is determined to capture. We learn more about Lizzie’s early life and her relationship with Faro. Faro himself is a likeable policeman, with no illusions about what the job entails, in the days of public hangings, but a determination to use his skills to make sure justice is done. In this case, he’s under extra pressure, as both his marriage and his career are at risk. Other characters also come across vividly: Lizzie, who just wants a quiet life; the determined Lady Belmuir and her rascally brother; and Faro’s mentor, Macfie, who ends up linked to the plot, in a neat twist. Above all this, there’s the feel of that long-gone Edinburgh, with its cobbled streets and the ever-present sound of hammering as new suburbs spread out from the town centre. In this novel, Faro also takes the new railway to visit the outlying towns, like Musselburgh (my own birthplace, so I was particularly pleased to see it figure in the story). The dialogue is convincingly period, yet still pacey, and the plot fast-moving.