Title: A Study in Spectres
Series: Simon Pearce Mysteries: Vol. One
Author: Jess Faraday
Publisher: Blind Eye Books
Length: 93 Pages
Category: Historical, Mystery/Suspense
At a Glance: A Study in Spectres is a welcome new book in a welcome new series from an author who knows how to weave a thoroughly intriguing story and fill it with interesting and endearing characters. Consider my appetite whetted and my anticipation geared up for book number two.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Simon Pearce is a copper with a secret…. Victorian London is a dangerous place — for a gay man, even more so. And for a gifted copper working his way up the greasy career ladder of Scotland Yard, it’s a perilous position indeed. Two short tales of mystery and suspense!
Constable Pearce keeps his head down, his eyes open, and his private life private.
Review: I’ve been a fan of Jess Faraday’s storytelling since the moment I fell in love with Ira Adler—and, yes, even developed a soft spot in spite of myself for crime lord Cain Goddard—in The Affair of the Porcelain Dog. While the Ira Adler series and the Simon Pearce Mysteries are as dissimilar as they could be, one commonality they do share is their charming protagonists maneuvering into and through the seamier side of Victorian Era London. The stories in A Study in Spectres each take place at a time when spiritualism and the occult were in vogue as well, so the idea that there might be spectral forces at work in sinister ways was a great touch added to the setting.
The basic concept that if something is not demonstrably false then the possibility exists that it could be true, gives Scotland Yard’s Constable Simon Pearce something to chew on in each of the cases Faraday offers up for his investigation. In both instances, Pearce must piece together credible clues along with some local lore and superstitions, and then get to the truth that lies behind the ghost stories and the seemingly inexplicable nature of the crimes. The Ghost of St. Sebastian is the first and the shortest of the two stories and introduces readers to Simon. He’s been walking the midnight beat for two years now, but he is not without goals or the ambition to work his way up in the ranks. Of course, the one way to do that is to use his ample skills and gift for deductive reasoning to his advantage, and to prove himself an asset to the Yard.
When a prisoner being escorted by Simon and his partner, Fitz, meets her untimely demise, alone and locked up tight in a Black Maria, the means to her end seemingly impossible, the investigation of that mystery leads Pearce to two more victims whose deaths are eerily similar and each lack reasonable explanation, which further piques Simon’s interest and his pursuit of answers. There is another, deeper, connection he feels to the victims as well, however. One that compels him to work all the harder to solve the murders of “the sort who haunt the churchyard of St. Sebastian’s”. Because Simon knows that “sort”, is that sort himself, and justice is the least and best he can provide to those about whom no one else cares. The catching of the killer and the motive and means of that person’s crimes was a chilling reveal.
Slough Dog is the second—and my favorite—of the two stories. It’s in this story that Simon meets a young med student, Callum Webster, with whom he finds a connection. It’s through their interactions that readers are teased with morsels of Simon’s backstory and develop an understanding of what it means to want something as basic as someone to spend meaningful time with, but also knowing that it’s impossible. This fosters the hope that maybe, just maybe, Simon will someday get what he longs for.
There is a mystery too, of course, and it’s a cracking good one. Constable Pearce is assigned to travel to Edinburgh to deliver a dog to Chief Inspector MacKay. Not just any dog, though. Hades is to be part of a developing crime dog program, but the hellhound has other ideas upon his arrival in Scotland. Hades escapes the taunting and tormenting Chief Inspector (I wouldn’t have minded if the dog had taken a chunk out of MacKay’s hide for the trouble, either), but before Simon and a new acquaintance, Constable Drummond, can track Hades and return him safely to a crate and a train straight back to London, a man is found dead, reports of a giant of a black dog in the area—possibly the ghost dog that legend purports haunts the homeowner—leave Pearce and Drummond working to solve the crime and prove Hades’ innocence. When the investigation uncovers a deeper layer of criminality, it might provide the career boost Simon is working towards.
A Study in Spectres is a welcome new book in a welcome new series from an author who knows how to weave a thoroughly intriguing story and fill it with interesting and endearing characters. Consider my appetite whetted and my anticipation geared up for book number two.
You can buy A Study in Spectres here:
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