Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Letters from a Murderer (Contains Spoilers)

Letters From a MurdererLetters From a Murderer by John Matthews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When a prostitute is murdered in New York and all signs point to Jack the Ripper, pathologist Thomas Colby sends his protege Finley Jameson across the pond to assist the police. Jameson teams with NYC cop Joseph Argenti to catch the Ripper but Jameson has some skeletons of his own and the police force is half in the pocket of gangster Michael Tierney. Can Jameson and Argenti catch the Ripper and end his reign of terror forever?

I got this from Netgalley. Thank you, Netgalley!

I almost didn't pick this up, feeling Jack the Ripper has been played out. However, I was watching Sherlock when this came up on Netgalley and decided to give it a chance. I'm glad I did.

Letters from a Murderer takes Jack the Ripper and plops him down in New York in 1891. Argenti, the immigrant cop, is an honest man in a dishonest place, fighting just to keep his head above water in a city of corruption. Finley Jamson is a privileged Englishman with quite a few quirks. Together, they make a pretty good team.

The supporting cast is equally good. You get Ellie, the prostitute who hasn't yet been broken by the business, Lawrence, Jameson's autistic savant manservant, and the Tierney mob. Michael Tierney reminds me of Al Swearengen from Deadwood quite a bit.

The Ripper is quite Ripperiffic and the violence is gruesome whenever he appears. I'm not sure how much Matthews drew from the actual case and how much he invented, though.

Big Fat Spoiler:  Jameson's quite a complex figure, what with his blackouts and opium habit. Seriously, does every Victorian detective have to be a drug addict? Anyway, it's a testament to Matthews' skill that even though this says a Jameson and Argenti mystery or something to that effect on the cover, he almost had me convinced that Jameson was killing people during his blackouts and/or opium hazes and unaware of it.

The way things unfolded was pretty believable. There were no huge leaps. Again, I'm not sure how much Matthews invented. Was NYC's sewer system a labyrinth of tunnels connected to the sea in 1891?

Letters From a Murderer was a gripping read and I'll be picking up the next Jameson and Argenti mystery. Four out of five stars.

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