Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Review: The Montgomery Murder by Cora Harrison
In the mean streets of Victorian London lies the body of wealthy Mr Montgomery.
The police must move fast to catch his killer. They need an insider, someone streetwise, cunning, bold . . . someone like Alfie.
When Inspector Denham makes him an offer he can’t refuse, it’s up to Alfie and his gang to sift clues, shadow suspects and negotiate a sinister world of double-dealing and danger – until the shocking truth is revealed...
So much for me having a fortnight focusing on mystery stories - sometimes life has to take over and one of the things that suffered was the Book Zone. Hopefully normal service will be resumed as soon as possible but in the meantime I wanted to mention this cracking book that the kind people at Piccadilly Press sent me. It is called The Montgomery Murder, and is the first in the new The London Murder Mysteries series from Cora Harrison. This is the first book I have read by Cora although I understand she has already written a number of books for children. This one, however, grabbed my attention as soon as I read about it as it is set in the Victorian era (one of my favourite periods in history) and in London (my favourite city - readers will know I love books set here).
I found the book a hugely enjoyable read, and ppolished it off in one sitting. It is very much in a similar vein to Anthony Read's Baker Street Boys series, but instead being assisting Sherlock Holmes, Alfie (and his band of waifs and strays) are 'enlisted' by Inspector Denham of London's finest. The premise therefore is not a particularly original one, but this is certainly not something that should deter you from reading this book.
Alfie lives with his blind brother Sammy, his cousins Jack and Tom, and their dog Mutsy in a cellar which had been the home of Alfie's parents before they died. Since then the boys have been living any which way they can in order to scrape enough money together to pay the weekly rent and keep them all fed. Sometimes this means a spot of petty thievery, and it is during one of these less than legal activities that Alfie is collared by the cops and finds himself hauled in to Bow Street Police Station. For Inspector Denham, who is currently puzzling over the murder of a wealthy local gentleman, the timing couldn't have been better and he soon has Alfie working for him in return for his freedom and a possible share in the reward money.
Cue a series of perilous experiences for Alfie and the boys and they launch their own investigation, aided by Mallesh, an Indian boy who is also the police's prime suspect. These investigations are not your average Famous Five style adventures - these kids are in genuine peril, and at least one of them gets seriously hurt in the process. The blurb on the back cover calls it an "action-packed adventure" and they certainly aren't wrong. It is a relatively easy read and would suit both confident readers of 8 or 9+, as well as older chidlren who maybe struggle a little more with their reading. The caracters are placed in some life-threatenign situations but there is nothing too scary in the plot. I was a lover of mystery stories when I was younger and I would have lapped this up. The characters are fun, brave and resilient - and stick together, despite their unfortunate circumstances. Alfie is a strong leader of the group, taking it on himself to ensure that they are well provided for, even at his relatively young age. His protective nature towards his blind brother is heart warming, although some older readers may find it a little schmaltzy at times.
Overall, a fun start to what I hope will be a long running series. The Montgomery Murder was released back in March and the second in the series, The Deadly Fire, is scheduled for an August release. If you kids like mystery stories with real peril for the main characters then this is certainly worth getting hold of for them.