William Arrowood, the poor man’s Sherlock Holmes, goes looking for a silent bride and finds a cesspool of corruption.
It’s been six months since "weak-minded" Birdie Barclay married pig farmer Walter Ockwell, and in all that time her parents, insurance clerk Dunbar and singing teacher Martha Barclay, haven’t had one word from her. They just want to know she’s all right, they tearfully assure Arrowood and his sidekick and amanuensis, Norman Barnett. Huffing at the much richer pot Holmes got for solving “The Adventure of the Priory School,” Arrowood relieves the Barclays of a trifling sum and sets off for the Ockwell farm, where he intimates that he’s brought news of a legacy to Birdie but is still prevented from seeing her by Walter Ockwell and his sister, Rosanna, who insist that Birdie isn’t home even though Arrowood can see her signaling him from an upstairs window as he leaves. When a more direct attempt to unite Birdie with her parents fails, Arrowood hunkers down to investigate possible skulduggery at the farm, which seems to employ no one but the kinds of mentally challenged patients the Caterham Asylum deals with. For his pains he’s warned off by Sgt. Root, of the Catford and Lewisham Police, and Barnett is soundly beaten. Edna Gillie, a woman who hints at stories of three dead children, disappears herself soon after Arrowood’s one conversation with her, and he fears that she’s dead, and that she’s not the only one. What has Birdie gotten herself into, and can a man who sets himself apart from Holmes by calling himself “an emotional detective. I try and solve my cases by understanding people” extricate her from the danger?
Better detective work than the series kickoff (Arrowood, 2017) and less emphasis on the hero’s amusingly futile rivalry with Holmes even though his case ends up echoing “The Priory School” in more uncomfortable ways than he could have imagined.