Mick Finlay's atmospheric debut mystery, Arrowood, reminds me of a television show from 2011-2012. "Copper" was about an Irish cop working in a dangerous neighborhood in New York City in the 1860s. Arrowood takes readers to the dangerous streets of South London in 1895, but it's the same gritty type of setting.
William Arrowood is an investigative agent who resents Sherlock Holmes' success. He insists to his assistant, Norman Barnett, that he's better at reading people than Holmes is. But, he still takes Caroline Consture's case, even though he knows she's lying when she asks him to find her missing brother. When Barnett and Arrowood learn the brother, Thierry, worked for the notorious Mr. Cream, they wish they had refused. A woman who knew Thierry is killed just before she can meet with the two men. Witnesses die or disappear when they know about Cream. Or, they're beaten and have their house set afire, with them in it.
As the two men investigate, they tangle with police, Cream's men, and an unknown killer. Their search puts them in danger, but also endangers those around them, including their errand boy and Arrowood's sister. Eventually, they are so caught up in plots involving Cream, the Fenians, the police, and the War Office that Barnett says, "Sometimes I lose sight of the case."
That's the problem with Arrowood. Sometimes I lost sight of the case as well. There were too many groups and people in this historical mystery, and it was hard to remember what the original case involved. Finlay does an excellent job telling the story of the working people just struggling to survive in 1895 London. But, it's hard to remember who all the working people are.
Arrowood by Mick Finlay. MIRA. 2017. ISBN 9780778330943 (paperback), 352p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.