Fans of Anne Perry will appreciate Kenneth Cameron’s complex and troubled detective/novelist/lawman Denton (who does not appear to have a first name.)
We first meet Denton in The Frightened Man in which an improbable connection to the notorious Jack the Ripper case brings the novelist in contact with Janet Stryker, a charismatic woman with a shady past.
Set in 1904, Denton is an American ex-expatriate who left his life as a lawman in the American west to live in London and write dark crime novels. His reputation attracts trouble and he finds himself at the center of dangerous situations. In The Bohemian Girl Denton has just returned from an unpleasant sojourn in a Transylvanian prison. Having lost his manuscript he is feverishly rewriting his novel from memory. During his absence, a note found behind a painting surfaces. The message is from a girl indicating that she is in danger and needs his help. Despite the fact that the note is several months old, Denton pursues the case. Meanwhile, Denton is having troubles of his own. He finds himself to be obsessively pursued by a fan who becomes increasingly dangerous. Add to this his developing and complex relationship with Janet Stryker. Styker is a woman with a dark past of her own and her present association with Denton puts her further in jeopardy.
Cameron’s characters are layered and complex. Denton is sophisticated and dangerous. He is an idealist who operates with his own sense of right. Stryker is a woman who could have been devastated by her past, but instead has developed her own coping strategies. She is a woman who transcends the constraints of her own time. Cameron’s sense of time and place feel genuine and unforced to me. He weaves in historical figures like Henry James and Gwen and Augustus John in way that makes them feel to be a natural part of the story. The story is tightly plotted with a conclusion which, though surprising, makes sense.
I’m looking forward to the third in the series: The Second Woman.
Those who enjoy atmospheric mysteries might enjoy:
A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss – “Benjamin Weaver, a Jew and an ex-boxer, is an outsider in eighteenth-century London, tracking down debtors and felons for aristocratic clients. The son of a wealthy stock trader, he lives estranged from his family—until he is asked to investigate his father’s sudden death. Thus Weaver descends into the deceptive world of the English stock jobbers, gliding between coffee houses and gaming houses, drawing rooms and bordellos. The more Weaver uncovers, the darker the truth becomes, until he realizes that he is following too closely in his father’s footsteps—and they just might lead him to his own grave. An enthralling historical thriller, A Conspiracy of Paper will leave readers wondering just how much has changed in the stock market in the last three hundred years. . .” – publisher
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny – “An ingenious and riveting mystery of murder, revenge and a cold-blooded killer, this is the internationally bestselling author’s finest yet. In the heart of the forest, two men sit at midnight, haunted by fear of discovery. In a few hours’ time, one of them will be dead, his secrets following him to the grave…When C. I. Gamache is called to investigate a murder in a picturesque Three Pines, he finds a village in chaos. A man has been found, bludgeoned to death, and there is no sign of a weapon, a motive or even the dead man’s name. Gamache and his colleagues, Inspector Beauvoir and Agent Isabelle Lacoste, start to dig under the skin of this peaceful haven for clues. They slowly uncover a trail of stolen treasure, mysterious codes and a shameful history that begins to shed light on the victim’s identity — and point to a terrifying killer…” – publisher
The Body of Death by Elizabeth George – “On compassionate leave after the murder of his wife, Thomas Lynley is called back to Scotland Yard when the body of a woman is found stabbed and abandoned in an isolated London cemetery. His former team doesn’t trust the leadership of their new department chief, Isabelle Ardery, whose management style seems to rub everyone the wrong way. In fact, Lynley may be the sole person who can see beneath his superior officer’s hard-as-nails exterior to a hidden—and possibly attractive—vulnerability. While Lynley works in London, his former colleagues Barbara Havers and Winston Nkata follow the murder trail south to the New Forest. There they discover a beautiful and strange place where animals roam free, the long-lost art of thatching is very much alive, and outsiders are not entirely welcome. What they don’t know is that more than one dark secret lurks among the trees, and that their investigation will lead them to an outcome that is both tragic and shocking. A multilayered jigsaw puzzle of a story skillfully structured to keep readers guessing until the very end, This Body of Death is a magnificent achievement from a writer at the peak of her powers.” – publisher