Saturday 9 March 2013

Book review : The Mannequin House - R.N. Morris

Welcome to the House of Blackley, the biggest consumers' paradise that Victorian London has to offer, providing "a whole world of provisions" ... as well as an awful lot of tragedy and brutality behind the scenes that the advertising slogan doesn't mention.

When Detective Inspector Silas Quinn is called in to investigate the death of one of the employees - a young female mannequin from the women's costumes department - he gets more than he bargained for. The principal suspect is a fez-wearing monkey who is the only "person" in the room with the murdered girl and the room is locked from the inside. Hmmmmm how bizarre !

Quinn is a likeable character whose heart is surely in the right place, but his father's suicide and his subsequent breakdown seem to have left him right on the edge. He has a rather unfortunate habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and a reputation for having people die on his investigations. This case appears to be his last chance to prove his name and his future is uncertain at the end of the book.

I love the olde-worlde feel of the luxurious emporium, with its fanciful department names and larger than life owner. Mr Blackley is a tyrannical boss, the obvious villain of the piece and the one that everyone, including the readers and Detective Quinn, would like to prove guilty. He certainly mistreats his employees and undoubtedly abuses the young ladies in his Mannequin House, but is he really the perpetrator of the callous crimes or is someone setting him up?

The atmosphere frequently reminded me of Sherlock Holmes (there are in fact several references to the great sleuth) but it is also timeless in many respects. The anorexic fashion models, the mass consumerism and the horrific rioting and looting scenes from the book are all things that wouldn't look out of place on the front page of a modern newspaper.

The plot is well written with numerous twists and turns, as well as enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing right up until the end. All of the characters have their faults and foibles so are possible suspects and you really want to learn more about their deep dark secrets.

If you like crime fiction and period drama, you'll be in your element. Imagine a Sherlock Homes mystery set in the department store from BBC drama The Paradise and you'll get a rough idea of what awaits you inside The Mannequin House

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £19.99

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Creme de la Crime (27 Dec 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780290381
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780290386
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2.5 x 22.2 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

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