Karen Odden has written a couple of different historical mystery series most of which are set in the Victorian era. She has also written introductions for some well known classics like Hard Time by Charles Dickens. Clearly she has a love of Victorian literature and history. I have enjoyed her Victorian Mysteries series even if there has only been two books so far.
This latest series featuring Inspector Corravan, is currently on its second book. Odden’s books are recommended for fans of CS Harris and Anne Perry and I would agree, her mysteries are more complex and rich in historical detail. The focus is usually on the mystery itself rather than some of the other secondary plots. I haven’t read this series yet and the reason I choose to do a feature instead of a review was so I could go back and read the first book before moving on to the second.
Having read Odden’s first series, I know she does a great job orientating new readers within the series, however when I can, I prefer to read series books in order. Today though, I have a feature AND excerpt to share! If you are a fan of historical fiction mysteries then you are not going to want to miss this diamond in the rough author! She always crafts a smart mystery with fun characters and wonderful historical details!
In the tradition of C. S. Harris and Anne Perry, a fatal disaster on the Thames and a roiling political conflict set the stage for Karen Odden’s second Inspector Corravan historical mystery.
September 1878. One night, as the pleasure boat the Princess Alice makes her daily trip up the Thames, she collides with the Bywell Castle, a huge iron-hulled collier. The Princess Alice shears apart, throwing all 600 passengers into the river; only 130 survive. It is the worst maritime disaster London has ever seen, and early clues point to sabotage by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who believe violence is the path to restoring Irish Home Rule.
For Scotland Yard Inspector Michael Corravan, born in Ireland and adopted by the Irish Doyle family, the case presents a challenge. Accused by the Home Office of willfully disregarding the obvious conclusion and berated by his Irish friends for bowing to prejudice, Corravan doggedly pursues the truth, knowing that if the Princess Alice disaster is pinned on the IRB, hopes for Home Rule could be dashed forever.
Corrovan’s dilemma is compounded by Colin, the youngest Doyle, who has joined James McCabe’s Irish gang. As violence in Whitechapel rises, Corravan strikes a deal with McCabe to get Colin out of harm’s way. But unbeknownst to Corravan, Colin bears longstanding resentments against his adopted brother and scorns his help.
As the newspapers link the IRB to further accidents, London threatens to devolve into terror and chaos. With the help of his young colleague, the loyal Mr. Stiles, and his friend Belinda Gale, Corravan uncovers the harrowing truth—one that will shake his faith in his countrymen, the law, and himself.
As I reached the bottom step, a shadow emerged from the alley,
and I felt someone approach from behind. My right hand was on my truncheon even before I turned.
Two hands came up in a gesture of surrender. “It’s just me.” Colin’s voice picked over the syllables in a way that told me he was two or three drinks along, but not so far gone that he didn’t care that it showed. His boots scuffed the dirt as he came near, and he lowered his hands and thrust them into his coat pockets. The night breeze, ripe with the scent of smoke and meat from the nearby butchery, blew Colin’s brown curls off his forehead.
He must’ve been lurking in that alley, waiting for me. All that Ma said, all her worry, made me temper my voice. “Why’d you run off, Col?” I asked. “I’d have liked a proper visit with you.”
“Ach.” His shoulders twitched as if avoiding a weight. “Elsie’s always harping at me like a bloody shrew.” His voice slurred over the last word. “But I stayed ’cause of a message I have for ye.”
My guess was Elsie wasn’t shrewish so much as she was worried, same as Ma, but she had a different way of showing it. Smelling the whiskey on Colin’s breath and observing the surly set to his jaw, I was beginning to understand their concern.
I shifted my feet to maneuver him into a position where the light from the window of the nearby pub would fall on his face. I hadn’t been looking at him closely enough of late. My strongest memories were of him as a young boy of six or so, slender and light-haired, his eyes sparkling with interest as I taught him how to whittle a whistle or tie a stopper knot that wouldn’t slip.
Colin’s eyes were as brilliantly blue now as they’d been then, just like his older brother Pat’s, although Pat had never looked at me so warily. “Don’t bark at me, all right?” Colin asked.
I replied evenly, “Am I likely to?”
He pulled a face.
“All right, I won’t,” I promised. “What sort of message?”
“It’s from O’Hagan.”
I stared. O’Hagan.
Those three syllables were all it took to bring me back to thirteen years ago, when I’d been one of O’Hagan’s regular boxers, in a bare-knuckles hall underground, no more than a sweaty pen at the bottom of a ladder, where the dirt wasn’t thick enough to absorb all the blood and cheap rotgut whiskey that fell. I’d boxed for O’Hagan until the night he’d asked me to throw a match, and I’d done something bloody stupid that ended with me fleeing Whitechapel, sleeping rough until I found my feet.
“Why’d he send you, instead of coming to me himself?” I let him see my disgust at O’Hagan’s cowardice.
Colin glanced back toward the house. “He knows you used to live with us. Mebbe he thought you’d listen if I was the one asking.” He sniffed. “Instead of payin’ him no mind like you well might.”
I frowned. O’Hagan and I had declared a truce of sorts years ago. I had never come after him for keeping illegal boxing halls and a fleet of bookmakers, and in return, I’d been able to move about Whitechapel unmolested. I certainly harbored no affection for O’Hagan, but I wondered why Colin assumed I’d ignore him. However, it wasn’t worth asking, with Colin in this state.
“He just wants to meet you,” Colin said. “To talk.”
Guesses about why ran through my head with the speed of a fast current, but I asked merely, “About what?”
Colin’s eyes veered away, and he shrugged. “Might have something to do with the Cobbwallers.”
The muscles across my upper back tightened.
O’Hagan belonged to the Cobbwallers now? I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me that James McCabe’s gang was running boxing halls as well as everything else. But like all London gang leaders, McCabe demanded absolute loyalty and discretion from his members. I couldn’t imagine a circumstance that would cause O’Hagan to discuss anything about the Cobbwallers with me, a policeman.
“Go on,” I said.
“Two Cobbwaller men are dead.” Colin peered at me aslant. “Murdered.”
My stomach lurched. In the wake of the Clerkenwell bombing, police had sought out and killed Cobbwallers. That was a decade ago, but it was a black mark in our history, and no doubt O’Hagan and McCabe remembered it. “Are they blaming police?”
His evasive look sparked hot fear along my nerves. “Colin, you’re not mixed up with the Cobbwallers, are you?”
There was the briefest pause before he drew his head back as if in surprise and shook it dismissively. “Nae.”
That hesitation made me long to press him further, but it was almost as if I felt Belinda’s hand, gentle on my sleeve, counseling patience. There would be time to ask again when Colin was sober.
Besides, if I did as Colin asked, he might confide in me more readily.
“All right.” I stepped forward and put my arm around his shoulder, tugged him close for a second. “Tell O’Hagan I’ll meet him.” As I released him, his eyes betrayed a flash of relief. …
I watched him stride away. He’d been a lively child, impulsive and mouthy and at times reckless of his own safety. Sometimes I’d catch him imitating Pat and me, in the way we’d carry ourselves, or wear our caps or hold a knife. It annoyed Pat to no end, and he’d shoo Colin off, but I didn’t mind. When I was one of the youngest members of Simms’s thieving gang, I’d watch the older boys swaggering and try it for myself later as I walked down a quiet street alone. So I’d give Colin a wink, and he’d give me a roguish smile back. …
Just how close were O’Hagan and his ilk brushing up against these people I loved?
The thought put a thick knot in the soft place underneath my ribs.
Chapter 2, pp.17-21
From Under a Veiled Moon © 2022, Karen Odden, published by Crooked Lane Books
- “[An] exceptional sequel . . . Fans of Lyndsay Faye’s Gods of Gotham trilogy will be enthralled.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
- “Victorian skulduggery with a heaping side of Irish troubles.” —Kirkus Reviews
- “Charismatic police superintendent Michael Corravan is back in a gripping sequel about the mysterious sinking of the Princess Alice. Odden deftly weaves together English and Irish history, along with her detective’s own story, in a way that will keep readers flipping pages long into the night.” —Susan Elia MacNeal, New York Times bestselling author of Mother Daughter Traitor Spy and the Maggie Hope series.
- Read an exclusive interview with author Karen Odden
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Karen Odden earned her Ph.D. in English from New York University and subsequently taught literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays to numerous books and journals, written introductions for Victorian novels in the Barnes & Noble classics series and edited for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture (Cambridge UP). Her previous novels, also set in 1870s London, have won awards for historical fiction and mystery. A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and the recipient of a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Karen lives in Arizona with her family and her rescue beagle Rosy.
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