The more I read of this historical crime fiction series featuring autopsy surgeon Dodi McCleland, the more I enjoy the sheer brilliance of the author carefully weaving historical details and behaviours into a well-plotted crime novel.
In this episode, Dodi is chaperoning her younger sister Florence to a weekend stay at Fitzgibbon Hall a country house near the hamlet of Piltdown. Also at the house is Florence’s love interest Tristram and his ghastly uncle Desmond. When a set of bones is found on a dried out waterbed in the grounds, Tristram hopes that this find will rival those of the Piltdown Man. With hunting with hounds not really Dodi’s idea of a good time she offers to take a look and it soon becomes clear the bones are of a young female, possibly a resident of the nearby workhouse.
The mystery is who is the girl and why was she shot in the back of the head and of course, who shot her? There really is only one way to proceed and that is to call on a detective to complement her medical knowledge. Yes, followers of the series will be delighted to hear that Inspector Matthew Pike makes an appearance even though Dodi is not at home. The pair’s relationship has matured although the sensibilities of the times means that it is still one of a clandestine nature. This lends a somewhat farcical scene when they come to meet in public yet are unable to act with anything beyond the professional façade.
The Scent of Murder is jam-packed with characters of all descriptions which means that some of them are pretty awful, some of them do awful things and some of them are outright baddies, oh and there are a few wise and kind souls but you have to look harder for them! In all seriousness I really do admire the way Felicity Young balances the fairly unlikeable characters with small gestures of kindness whilst never stooping to sentimentalise the realities of life at this time, particularly if you were a girl from the workhouse hoping for a permanent job as an under maid.
This series of books feel a lot more measured than contemporary crime fiction, but that doesn’t mean that they are without action, in each of the three books I’ve read there is plenty to keep you biting your nails as danger stalks the victims of this tale from all directions as the multiple strands pull together to expose all the dastardly goings on.
As in the other books in the series the victims are those that you would naturally choose from this era of history, women, children and the poor but the author is careful not to overdo the issues she is addressing. The focus in this book is the poor, particularly those who inhabit the nearby workhouse run by the Master and Mistress, who are as vile as any you might meet in a Dickens novel. This in contrast the opulent Fitzgibbon Hall with its hunting and well-stocked kitchen says all that needs to be said about the divide between rich and poor at this time.
The Scent of Murder is another book rich with detail for any lover of historical crime fiction.
The Scent of Murder was my twelfth read in my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, so I’m still on target to hit 36 books purchased before 1 January 2017. I purchased this book in September 2015.
First Published UK: 2014
No of Pages: 243
Genre: Historical Fiction – Crime
Dodi McCleland Series