A fourth case for pre-eminent personal detective Sidney Grice and his ward and assistant, Miss March Middleton (Death Descends on Saturn Villa, 2016, etc.), delves into grisly murders old and fresh in Victorian London.
Miss Charity Goodsmile is recently bereaved of her father, whose throat was slit in his bed. The late Mr. Nathan Mortlock became sole heir to the Garstang fortune and the grim house known as Gethsemane after his family and nearly all their servants were brutally murdered more than a decade ago. On both occasions, the house was locked as securely as a fortress. The legacy intrigues Mr. Grice, in the callous manner typical of arrogant genius detectives, and he agrees to look into the case. Miss Middleton and Mr. Grice carry on an exhaustively detailed investigation while their maid continually spouts malapropisms that amuse neither Mr. Grice nor the reader. The pair examine the body and discover that Mr. Mortlock was strangled and tortured before his death. They question a parade of stock characters—a ghoulish undertaker, a dignified butler, a pretty French maid—but the housekeeper drops dead before they learn much from her. They scrutinize the crime scene and visit an insane asylum to question the maid who allegedly murdered the Garstangs all those years ago. The investigation builds to a wildly elaborate yet coherent conclusion involving corruption, mistaken identity, and a secret marriage.
Kasasian faithfully imitates the tale’s Gothic forbears in both bloody horror and florid prose. Readers might be better served by digging into the original Victoriana.