Penguin Books seems to surprisingly good at find crime fiction that feel fresh as soon as you open it and Oscar De Muriel's The Strings of Murder is another example of that trend. Similarly to "The Sea Detective" which I've reviewed earlier in the week, De Muriel's story is built upon the elements that you wouldn't normally associate with the murder investigation and yet, that very fact turns out to be its most appealing characteristic, the very trait that sets it apart from the rest.
"The Strings of Murder" takes place in Edinburgh in 1888 and open with a brutal murder of a virtuoso violinist. The murder occurred in the safety of his home under mysterious circumstances. The maid swears that just before the murder she heard three musicians playing and yet the murder happened inside the locked practice room. Scotland Yard's Inspector Ian Frey is assigned to the case after failing to make any headway in Jack the Ripper case that is unfolding at the same time. Frey actively dislikes Scotland. There's no other way to put it but he simply has no choice. It's either that or being dismissed from the police force. He is taking the investigation under the guise of a pretend police department which specialises in the occult. Frey doesn't actually believe in the supernatural but his boss, Detective Adolpho 'Nine Nails' McGray actually does which really grates on Frey. And it's not their only difference between the two. Half of the time they're just bluntly insulting each other. And that's before you even mention the London - Edinburgh rivalry. It's an interesting and rewarding setup that works tremendously well once the duo finds their dynamic. As the body count increases, Frey once again comes under that tremendous pressure that followed him all the way through the Ripper case but if anything, this series of murders seems to be even harder to understand. There's no obvious connection between the victims except of the fact that they were all violinists.
Oscar De Muriel's fiendishly clever "The Strings of Murder" is a wonderful debut. It has all the hallmarks of a great Gothic detective novel and with a cast such as Frey & McGray it could just be the series that might last for a very long time. It will be interesting seeing where he takes his characters next as "The Strings of Murder" will definitely be a tough act to follow. We won't have long to wait as the sequel to it, "A Fever of the Blood", is just around the corner.
Review copy provided by Penguin Press
Order The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel here: