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Monday 14 August 2017

‘Dark Dawn Over Steep House’ by M R C Kasasian

Published by Head of Zeus, 
1 June 2017. 
ISBN: 978-1-7849-7800-9

London, 1884. Geraldine Hockaday, the daughter of a respected Naval captain, was outraged on the streets of London – yet her attacker is still on the loose. Then a chance encounter in a cafe brings a new victin to light, and London’s foremost private detective, Sidney Grice, is on the trail, aided by his ward, March Middleton.

This Victorian investigation is narrated by March, and is framed by two short 1944 narratives, where she looks back at the episode. She’s a lively ‘Watson’ who is determined to follow her guardian’s profession. We sympathise with her hurt at her guardian’s constant gybes, and her desire for love, but her impulsiveness creates serious trouble on several occasions. Grice is an entertaining character, full of Sherlockina deductions, but even more irascible and abrupt, with a wonderful range of put-downs. Other good characters were Molly, the maid, with her confusing double negatives, the horribly-scarred Frederica, who was the only person to survive the burning of the sinister Steep House, and her beautiful friend, Lucy. The plot was fast-moving, whizzed along by short, intriguingly-titled chapters. There were a lot of twists and turns, a high and gruesome body-count, and a breathless finale which put all the key characters who’d survived this far in danger. The Victorian background was enjoyably done, convincing without being heavy, and the visits to Steep House and the backstreet opium den atmospherically sinister. The light, sharp writing made it an enjoyable read, but there was a vein of tragedy underlying it, and the ending was far from happy for all concerned. This is the fifth adventure of Grice and Middleton, so there were a number of references to previous cases, and to Middleton’s emotional life, though it read well as a stand-alone.   

A fast-moving Victorian thriller, with a high body count and a seriousness under its light-hearted prose. The series begins with The Mangle Street Murders.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

M. R. C. Kasasian  was raised in Lancashire, and has had careers as varied as factory hand, wine waiter, veterinary assistant, fairground worker and  dentist. He lives with his wife in Suffolk in the winter and in a fishing village in the south of Malta during the summer. He is now a full time author.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

A review of her recent book Ghosts of the Vikings can be read here.

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