Slightly Jones Mystery: The Case of the Glasgow Ghoul by Joan Lennon
|Slightly Jones Mystery: The Case of the Glasgow Ghoul by Joan Lennon|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: In Victorian detective-in-training Slightly's second case, she travels to Glasgow to investigate thefts from the Hunterian Museum. Dozens of items are disappearing, apparently stolen by a one-legged man and an exotic beast – but what is the connection with the ghosts which wander in the nearby graveyard?|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 160||Date: February 2011|
There are spooks and ghouls aplenty in this story: readers avid for a delicious shiver or two will be pleased to know they appear right from the very first chapter. And in keeping with the wonderfully Victorian flavour of the book, it is body-snatchers, digging up a corpse to sell to a local doctor, who encounter the terrifying spectres. This is not a horror story, however, despite the scary setting of its opening pages: the haunted cemetery is simply one element in the complicated case of the disappearing treasures.
Our heroine, Slightly, is a spindly, freckle-faced girl who has lived with her almost-Granny and a group of lodgers since she was a baby. She is fascinated by Sherlock Holmes, and when she hears about the robberies, she determines to investigate just like her hero. Her chance comes when a museum trustee, the brother of one of the lodgers, invites her to stay with Granny for a few days at his huge old house in Glasgow. Her excitement knows no bounds, partly because she has never travelled in a train before, and once they arrive she wastes no time in setting to work on the case. The museum has recently acquired a sacrificial knife from the South Pacific, donated by the family of Captain Cook, and it is decided to use this as bait to trap the thieves. What follows is a series of events redolent of Dickens and Conan Doyle in their complexity, drama, pathos and danger.
In the Slightly Jones series, Joan Lennon has created detective stories which will grip the modern reader while preserving the best of their Victorian setting. Euston Station is described as a bustle of noise, steam and soot, and to pass the time on the train journey Slightly reads one of the Penny Dreadfuls which feed her extremely active imagination. Both positive and negative aspects of nineteenth century life are included, and they provide fascinating colour and depth to these pages. Mr Malcolm and Mr John were frequently caned by their father as young boys, the dreadful fogs called pea-soupers are a major source of ill health in towns, and poverty abounds in both London and Glasgow. But it is also a marvellous age of exploration, philanthropy and invention, with the new Underground being constructed and a strong emphasis on charitable works, morality and good manners. Slightly, for example finds herself struggling early on in the book with a dilemma: is listening to other people's conversations eavesdropping (which is bad) or detecting (which is good)? She is a delightful character who displays both integrity and humour and courage, and readers will have no difficulty in identifying with her. In fact, all the major characters are well-rounded: they have their own histories and motives and points of view, and they are depicted with a gentle humour which makes you long to know them. This is a book which will please both the history buff in the family, and the crime fan, and we look forward to more exploits from the admirable Miss Jones.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: Readers who want to find out more about the Victorian practice of body-snatching will enjoy Nathaniel Wolfe and the Bodysnatchers by Brian Keaney, and a more contemporary amateur sleuth will be found in Saxby Smart: Private Detective: The Secrets of the Skull by Simon Cheshire.
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