I have long been an advocate of the Frey & McGray novels although I have read them all back to front. Despite reading the second and third books already, I have only just read book number 1 The Strings of Murder.
Obviously, I knew I was in for a treat having read the other two but it was pleasing to see that the first novel was just as good as the second and third.
The Strings of Murder is the beginning for Frey and McGray, Frey is sacked from Scotland Yard in London at the same time as his fiancée deserts him for another man. Feeling dejected he agrees to be sent to Edinburgh and be teamed up with the notorious ‘nine nails’ McGray who heads up a police subdivision which focuses on the occult.
What really makes this series great is the characters. Don’t get me wrong the plot is excellent, the twists fantastic, the historical accuracy on point (to the best of my knowledge) and the plot line is always intriguing making the stories unputdownable. But the relationship between Frey and McGray make it for me. The banter between them has me laughing out loud, from McGray’s insistence on referring to Frey as a ‘lassie’ to Frey’s disgust at everything McGray eats, wears, says or does. It’s just fantastic. If you haven’t read this series already then I suggest you do so as soon as possible!
‘Yer may nae. Do as I said, else I’ll punch yer snooty face.’
Welcome back to the notorious ‘Nine Nails’ McGray and his eloquent language when interviewing a potential witness. I fell in love with McGray when I read A Fever of the Blood last year and I was really pleased to be granted an ARC of A Mask of Shadows the third book in the series.
Once more we see the beguiling if slightly eccentric McGray, along with his partner Ian Frey thrown into a mysterious entanglement of murder, mystery and the supernatural. This time there’s a banshee haunting Henry Irving’s performance of ‘The Scottish Play’.
I love that Bram Stoker is one of the main characters in this book, it reminded me a little bit of the mini TV series Houdini & Doyle with the two men searching, one for supernatural causes (Doyle = McGray) and one for the reasonable explanation (Houdini = Frey). It has the same wonderfully entertaining banter between the two. I love that McGray treats Frey so badly calling him everything from a ‘pansy’ to ‘Percy’ after he finds out his middle name. Yet despite the good ribbing he constantly gives him, you can tell the two have a great connection and that McGray would miss Frey should he be sent back to London.
I also really liked how the character of Frey was developed in this novel. Usually he is the one trying to rein in McGray but this time he has a good Pop at people himself and it’s really great to see him get a pair of his own and I’m not talking tartan trousers!
The novel features a ton of famous characters from actors Henry Irving and Ellen Terry to the aforementioned Bram Stoker and even a cameo from Oscar Wilde and mentions of friendships with Lewis Carroll.
It is engaging from start to finish and I really didn’t have a clue who was behind everything. Nothing was clear as every time the author threw a red herring that’s all it seemed it be. Everyone stood a chance of being guilty and that is the truly clever skill of Oscar De Muriel that he is able to convince us that it might just be a supernatural explanation after all….
The first section of this book is written in third person and flips between 3 different events spanning several years apart as a sort of prologue. They serve well to introduce characters, prepare the plot and pique the readers interest. They leave the reader with several unanswered questions which draw you in. Chapter 1 changes slightly with a switch to 1st person. We see things through the eyes of Frey a disgraced police inspector banished to Edinburgh to work for an isolated branch of CID which investigates cold cases thought to be the result of the occult. This is where it gets really interesting. As the story develops the puzzle pieces begin slotting into place and an understanding of the connection between the first 3 passages forms. The use of Scottish Idioms makes the story much more realistic as well. I also found myself googling for more information on certain points of interest created. There is a dry, sarcastic humour bordering on banter between the two inspectors which is at times fairly amusing and goes a long way to building the story and the characters.
Overall I found this book very engaging. I hadn’t had the pleasure of reading books by this author before but now I have found out this is the second in a series I’ve added the first to my list. What’s great about this book is the intrigue and build up it has which really makes it quite unputdownable I even read it while ironing! What makes it even better is that the result and conclusion were genuinely worth waiting for not like some books where there’s lots of build up and then the ending is rubbish, this one In contrast is well worth the wait and answers all the unanswered questions it builds up to. Highly recommended!