17 December 2013

Review: SHADOW OF THE SERPENT, David Ashton

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 572 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Birlinn; Reprint edition (May 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006WB2BDU
Synopsis (Amazon)

Known as the father of forensics and a likely influence on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, real-life police inspector James McLevy is here reinvented by David Ashton in a thrilling mystery, Shadow of the Serpent.

1880, Edinburgh, Election fever grips the city. But while the rich and educated argue about politics, in the dank wynds of the docks it's a struggle just to stay alive. When a prostitute is brutally murdered, disturbing memories from thirty years ago are stirred in McLevy who is soon lured into a murky world of politics, perversion and deception - and the shadow of the serpent.

My Take

A Financial Times review wrote 'McLevy is a sort of Victorian Morse with a heart, prowling the mean wynds and tenements of the endless fascinating city. David Ashton impeccably evokes Edinburgh so vividly that you can feel the cold in your bones and the menace of the Old Town's steep cobbles and dark corners'.

I'm not sure I would go as far as the Victorian Morse bit, but James McLevy as recreated by David Ashton is certainly an interesting character. Ashton's recreation of Victorian Edinburgh makes me glad those times have passed. The plot of SHADOW OF A SERPENT is a complex one and contains some authentic-feeling portrayals of Disraeli, Gladstone and Queen Victoria. Someone is out to prevent William Gladstone from becoming Prime Minister at any cost. Ripper-like murders of prostitutes have begun on Edinburgh streets.

This is the debut title of a series that looks as if it will be popular particularly with those who enjoy crime fiction with a historical setting.
Fantastic Fiction lists
Inspector McLevy Mystery
1. The Shadow of the Serpent (2006)
2. Fall from Grace (2007)
3. A Trick of the Light (2009)
4. Nor Will He Sleep (2013)
5. The Painted Lady (2013)
End of the Line (2011)

I think SHADOW OF THE SERPENT has some of the problems of debut title: the plot is at times too tortuous and a little dark. The historical details at times take over, putting the crime fiction into the background. There a few threads that seem to me to go unresolved.

My rating: 4.3


Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - Thanks for your take on this. It sounds like a solid debut, eve if there are a few things that didn't quite work for you. I may have to give this a go.

Irene said...

thank you for your review


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