Interviewing the Dead (Carlyle and West #1), by David Field

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to David Field and Sapere Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Never one to pass up the opportunity to read anything by David Field, I rushed to get hold of the debut novel in this new Victorian crime series. With a wonderful premise and keen attention to detail, Field keeps the reader’s attention throughout this fast-paced novel. It’s the late Victorian Era and Jack the Ripper is simply a passing memory for the people of London’s East Side. However, after some bones are unearthed during the construction of an underground station, problems arise. A woman arrives on a country-wide junket to tell fortunes and send messages from the dead to the local population, including that two centuries before this very ground was the dumpling place during a plague outbreak, including those that were unearthed. This means that there are many unsettled souls angered at being disturbed and they have turned their ire on the locals. Soon thereafter, people begin to die unexpectedly and some are seen to act in very suspicious ways,. The people turn to their local Wesleyan street preacher, Matthew West, but he has no idea what’s going on. He, in turn, seeks the medical advice of Dr. James Carlyle, a surgeon at the local London Hospital. While both men come from completely different perspectives on the subject of spirits, they are united in wanting to find out what’s causing all these deaths. Investigating as best they can, West and Carlyle must seek the assistance of a detective, who serves to fill in some of the gaps. When West finds himself on the wrong side of a murder charge after being attacked outside, Carlyle makes a discovery that could help to explain what’s going on. Someone’s been spiking the beer with a potent drug, one not usually found in the region. It’s up to West and Carlyle to find out who and why before the death toll mounts and talk of the dead haunting the streets of London gets any more out of hand. Well-paced and the perfect book to pull the reader in for a day of reading, David Field shows that he is not one to run out of ideas. Recommended for those who love a good Victorian mystery, as well as the reader who has come to enjoy the work of David Field.

Having cut my teeth on Field’s first Victorian mystery series, I was pleased to see him come back to this era, which gives him the chance to delve deeper into the history, medical advancements, and sociology-economic situation of the time. He paves the way for what is sure to be an exciting series with two strong protagonists. Matthew West is a young man who serves no specific flock as he counsels the homeless and those he encounters on his walks through London’s East Side. Still new to the profession, the reader can see the cracks in his character as he tries to be upstanding without yet being able to ignore some of the baser urges that are tossed before him. He seeks to help, but is still largely naive when it comes to matters of deeper thinking. This contrasts nicely with Dr. James Carlyle, whose medical knowledge and life experience make him the more grounded of the two. Carlyle educates West (and the reader) to some of the medical and psychological know-how as it relates to neuroses and poisoning. He reveals some interesting facts about the case, while also trying to parent his daughter, who seeks to stir up the pot with her women’s rights movement, a great sub-plot. Other characters work well within the confines of the piece, offering a great deal of flavouring to an exciting story. Built on a wonderful premise, Field pulls on some of the sentiments around spirits from the day, as well as the rise in mediums who seek to communicate between the two worlds. With a mixture of chapter lengths, Field pulls the reader in before offering them longer explanations to give the book some depth. The narrative flows really well and is peppered with great cockney slang to add a layer of realism to the banter between characters. I cannot wait to see what else the West-Carlyle duo undertake in upcoming pieces, hoping that Field has many ideas to share with his fan base.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for another winner. I am pleased to see us back in Victorian times, where my appreciation for your writing began. Perhaps the attentive reader may see some crossover mentions from the other series?

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: