Granger, Ann - 'A Particular Eye for Villainy'
This is the fourth of Ann Granger's novels featuring the Victorian investigative team of Ben and Lizzie Ross. Ben is a Scotland Yard detective, but it is Lizzie with the 'particular eye' of the title, and Lizzie who uncovers many of the vital clues.
Thomas Tapley, a neighbour of the Rosses', is widely considered a slightly eccentric down-at-heel gentleman. In the opening chapter, Lizzie is alarmed when she sees him followed across Waterloo Bridge by a clown, but puts the matter down to her hyperactive imagination (Lizzie has a phobia of clowns).
Soon afterwards, however, Tapley is soon found bludgeoned to death in his lodgings, the home of an eminently respectable Quaker widow. At first glance the murder looks like a bungled burglary, but Ben Ross is not convinced. When Tapley's cousin Jonathan, a wealthy barrister, gets in touch to claim the body, it becomes clear that there was more to Thomas than met the eye. The investigation into his chequered past reveals surprise after surprise as the book goes on, and eventually even explains the clown on Waterloo Bridge. With Thomas Tapley, Granger has created a truly interesting victim, and it's almost a shame he gets killed.
Granger has a light touch with her history, reminiscent of Peter Lovesey's Sergeant Cribb novels. I have to relate that there is an urchin, but fortunately he is kept to a minimum. There are a couple of corny lines, sadly one on the first page:
"We have Mr Bazalgette and his new and improved sewer system to thank for not having to hold handkerchiefs over our noses".
But overall this is an eminently readable, light-hearted history-mystery. Ben and Lizzie Ross are engaging protagonists and are ably supported by a growing cast of secondary characters. Ann Granger has shown she can sustain a series with her Mitchell and Markby novels, so it's worth investing in the Rosses.
Rich Westwood, England
last updated 24/06/2012 08:48