Is it the heart of the empire, or the heart of darkness?
– Peter Ackroyd, quote about London.
One of the books that caught our particular eye in this month’s selection of newly acquired detective and mystery titles was The old rogue of Limehouse by Ann Granger, an atmospheric historical crime novel set in Victorian London in the summer of 1871. One of the many great ingredients that make this book such a compelling read is its location, Limehouse.
Limehouse is an ancient district in London. The name is derived from the local lime kilns that used to be there, with the earliest known reference to the area dating back to 1356. However, it is the Limehouse’s connection with British maritime history that the area is perhaps best known for. One of London’s key ports from hundreds of years, sadly the Limehouse Basin docks closed in the late 1960s. Whilst being a vibrant and diverse community, Limehouse was also known historically for its poverty, deprivation and notorious 19th Century era opium dens. This rich, varied and interesting history of the area has proved a big lure to several writers.
Authors and novels that have taken advantage of the Limehouse area of the London, and the districts close by, to set their works in include:Alan Moore with his The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel series, Kate Summerscale with her award winning factual book The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer, Peter Ackroyd and his excellent Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem , The Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin, the now highly problematic Fu Manchu stories by Sax Rohmer and now Ann Granger’s latest book joins this select group of writers.
The old rogue of Limehouse / Granger, Ann
“It is the summer of 1871 when Scotland Yard’s Inspector Ben Ross pays a visit to Jacob Jacobus, the old rogue of Limehouse: infamous antiquarian, friend to villains and informer to the police. Ben hopes to glean information about any burglaries that might take place now that the wealthiest echelons of society are back in London for the Season. Little does he realise that an audacious theft has already occurred – a priceless family heirloom, the Roxby emerald necklace, has been stolen from a dressing table in the Roxby residence, and the widowed Mrs Roxby is demanding its immediate return…” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The fine art of uncanny prediction / Goddard, Robert
“Umiko Wada never set out to be a private detective, let alone become the one-woman operation behind the Kodaka Detective Agency. But so it has turned out, thanks to the death of her former boss, Kazuto Kodaka, in mysterious circumstances. Keen to avoid a similar fate, Wada chooses the cases she takes very carefully. A businessman who wants her to track down his estranged son offers what appears to be a straightforward assignment. Soon she finds herself pulled into a labyrinthine conspiracy with links to a twenty-seven-year-old investigation by her late employer and to the chaos and trauma of the dying days of the Second World War…” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The close / Casey, Jane
“At first glance, Jellicoe Close seems to be a perfect suburban street – well-kept houses with pristine lawns, neighbours chatting over garden fences, children playing together. But there are dark secrets behind the neat front doors, hidden dangers that include a ruthless criminal who will stop at nothing. It’s up to DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent to uncover the truth. Posing as a couple, they move into the Close, blurring the lines between professional and personal as never before. And while Maeve and Josh try to gather the evidence they need, they have no idea of the danger they face – because someone in Jellicoe Close has murder on their mind.'(Adapted from Catalogue)
Death in the sauna / Altman, Dennis
“On the eve of a major international AIDS Conference in London, the Conderence chair is found dead in suspicious circumstances. Tracking down how he died reveals layers of deception, rivalry and danger for those close to him.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The murder of Anton Livius / Schneider, Hansjörg
“Inspector Hunkeler is summoned back to Basel from his New Year holiday to unravel a gruesome killing in a community garden on the city’s outskirts. An old man has been shot in the head and found in his garden shed hanging from a butcher’s hook. Hunkeler must deal not only with the quarrelsome tenants of the garden but with the challenges of investigating a murder that has taken place outside his jurisdiction, across the French border in Alsace. The clues lead to the Emmental in Berne, and then to Alsace where wounds from the Second World War have never healed.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Death at the auction / Bateman, E. C
“When an accident forces Felicia Grant back to her family’s auction house in Stamford, she vows it’ll only be a flying visit. But as the gavel falls on the final lot, a hidden secret is revealed-the body of her father’s business rival, murdered during the packed sale! Soon, Felicia is swept into a mystery that has everyone in the community as a potential suspect including her. As the body count rises and with the people she loves under threat, Felicia takes matters into her own hands. But even the most picturesque place has its secrets…” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The Paris mystery : a Charlie James mystery / Manning, Kirsty
“Intrepid reporter Charlotte “Charlie” James arrives in Paris in 1938 eager to make a fresh start, but little does she know the trouble that awaits her… Charlie James is chasing her first big scoop as correspondent for British-based newspaper The Times, and she needs to prove to her boss that she can do this job as well, if not better, than her male counterparts. On the summer solstice eve, the Circus Ball is in full swing, with the Parisian elites entranced by burlesque dancers, tightrope walkers, a jazz band…and a horrific murder. A wealthy but unscrupulous investor is dead, and the list of suspects is a veritable who’s who of le haut monde…” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Penance / Clark, Eliza
“Do you know what happened already? Did you know her? Did you see it on the internet? Did you listen to a podcast? Did the hosts make jokes? Did you see the pictures of the body? Did you look for them? It’s been years since the horrifying murder of sixteen-year-old Joan Wilson rocked Crow-on-Sea, and the events of that terrible night are now being published for the first time. Manoeuvering us through accounts from the inhabitants of this small seaside town. Placing us in the capable hands of journalist Alec. Z. Carelli, allowing him to construct what he claims is the ‘definitive account’ of the murder – and what led up to it. ..” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.