Publication Date: October 11, 2022
About the Author: Karen Odden earned her Ph.D. in English from New York University and subsequently taught literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays to numerous books and journals, written introductions for Victorian novels in the Barnes & Noble classics series and edited for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture (Cambridge UP). Her previous novels, also set in 1870s London, have won awards for historical fiction and mystery. A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and the recipient of a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Karen lives in Arizona with her family and her rescue beagle Rosy.
The Irish are out of favor in 1870s London. When a packed pleasure steamer named the Princess Alice going up the Thames crashes into a coal barge, the papers and the public are ready to blame the Irish Republican Brotherhood for terrorism. Acting police superintendent Michael Corravan has enough to do with the violence going on his home streets threatening the neighborhood shop of his adoptive family the Doyles, but now he must contend with double-crossing Irish street gangs, political intrigues surrounding the plan for Irish Home Rule, and questions about his own loyalties.
Jumping into the second book of the Inspector Corravan mysteries without having read the first, I was a little lost on his personal relationships during the first couple chapters. However, once the steamer collision left collateral damage of all kinds on both sides of the Thames, I was riveted to the investigation. Corravan is a complex character with a rough past, an iron resolve, and a ready intelligence to sort through problems and possibilities. His relationship with Ma and Elsie Doyle and his loyal efforts to help his adoptive brother Colin Doyle rung with true sentiment without becoming mawkish. His coolness under pressure was an admirable character trait, but his fears for the safety of those he cared about humanized him.
The book does an excellent job of portraying the historical milieu surrounding the Irish Potato Famine, IRB terrorism, and Parliamentary plans for Irish Home Rule without feeling like an info dump. Corravan must sort out whether rogue Irish nationalists are responsible for the violence or whether the Irish are being framed by others who have their own sinister goals in mind. The prejudice he encounters due to his own parentage adds dimension to the story and illustrates the ugliness of racism without being overtly preachy.
I have always been a fan of Anne Perry’s William Monk and Thomas & Charlotte Pitt mysteries, and the style of this book, both in characterization and in the scope of the plot, reminded me of Perry. I was pleased to be introduced to a new historical mystery author with this book and look forward to reading more by Karen Odden. Recommended.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the author. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
“I wasn’t put in a hood for the cab ride, and I understood what that meant. I’d either convince McCabe that the information I brought him was worthwhile, or I wouldn’t be leaving his presence alive.”Under a Veiled Moon, by Karen Odden