Murder by Ghostlight by J.C.Briggs

‘She could hardly believe that Mr Dickens had been taken into custody.’

Manchester, 1850. Charles Dickens and his company of friends are performing ‘Money’, a play by Edward Bulwer-Lytton at the Queen’s Theatre. At the end of the evening’s performance, Charles Dickens and the other members of the cast had dined at the Concert Tavern, but Dickens then returned to the Theatre. Something had bothered him.

‘The theatre was quiet now, the stage illuminated only weakly by the ghostlight left on for safety, and by the oil lamp burning down.’

He finds a man dead on stage. There’s a pistol on the floor. Dickens hears a noise, he fires the pistol and shortly after finds himself arrested for murder. Will Dickens be able to convince the authorities of his innocence?

With the help of his good friend Superintendent Sam Jones of Bow Street, Dickens is released pending further investigation. Naturally, Dickens wants to find out who the killer was. He and Superintendent Jones, together with the Manchester Police, set out to investigate.

The investigation takes them into the slums of Manchester as well as into the streets of London. They quickly make some rather disconcerting discoveries and uncover a mystery or two. In the meantime, the murders continue. And as the story builds to its climax, Dickens himself is at risk.

This is Ms Briggs’s third novel in this series, and I enjoyed it as much as the first two. Dickens and Jones work well together: they are both aware of the inequalities in society and each is determined to do his bit to change them. This leads to some engaging secondary characters as well as some insights into where Dickens took inspiration for some of his novels. For those who’ve read the earlier books, some familiar characters will make an appearance. While this novel can be read as a standalone, I strongly recommend reading the series in order.

Highly recommended, and I am now looking out for the fourth novel in the series.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Sapere Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith