Dark Dawn Over Steep House by M.R.C. Kasasian

Review published on July 8, 2017.

The Gower Street Detective is a Mr Sidney Grice. He has a glass eye, which he always removes. He is irascible and pedantic and sees the world differently: key traits for a literary detective, it seems.

Grice is assisted by his god-daughter, March Middleton (tongue-twister!). Her father was a military surgeon and she often assisted him, meaning that she’s not squeamish.

Perhaps it is because I haven’t read the previous books, but I do not like Mr G! I understand that his character is supposed to be obnoxious and rude, but he could be endearing with it. Holmes has redeeming features that make him likeable. Grice just gets my hackles up.

He’s erratic and deliberately irritating, especially in regard to literal speech. March constantly gives him opportunities to belittle her and deliberately misinterpret what she says, and each instant just made me dislike Grice more. His dialogue is erratic and his random movements are quite distracting.

March is a far from perfect character too, but her idiosyncrasies are at least endearing. She is plain and happy with it. She likes a drink and a smoke. She is also quite bolshie and prepared to put Grice in his place, even if he does totally ignore her. She is a character ahead of the times in which she is written. As the narrator, she is the saving grace of this book (and, I assume, the series).

I found the plot intriguing. I don’t think I have ever read a Victorian mystery that dealt with a rapist. As the story progresses, it becomes more brutal than I expected. Not gruesome, but characters were treated more harshly than I anticipated, even dying. Whilst this made the story more realistic, it also made me dislike March Middleton a little. She sets up situations that resulted in other people’s downfall and I don’t feel like she was contrite enough afterwards.

There are a number of twists and turns in the book, with several plots strands knotted around each other. It’s a clever book, not a formulaic plot at all. I just wish I could like Grice more, then perhaps I would read others in the series.

Hayley Nicholson 3/4

Dark Dawn Over Steep House by M.R.C. Kasasian
Head of Zeus 9781784978099 hbk Jun 2017

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