Sunday, February 13, 2011

'A Better Quality of Murder' is a pretty fair sort of book

Granger, Ann. A Better Quality of Murder. Bidford-on-Avon: Headline, 2010.

I gather that with this book selection I jumped headlong into the middle of a series of detective novels, but, as with earlier novels about the unforgettable Hercule Poirot, Tommy and Tuppence, or Lord Peter Wimsey, Granger's Ben Ross can be met mid-series without any noticeable lost context.

I confess that I'm not much of a Victorianist, but Granger's portrayal of Victorian London agreed with my mental picture thereof, and if the book is as well-researched as her settings suggest, I learned a great deal about behavioral expectations, prostitution, and the early temperance movement. The title of the book plays lightly on the distinctions between women of the middle and upper classes and those who plied their trade in dark street corners, but the descriptions in the book are tasteful and subtly made.

Amid the frequent introductions of Victorian culture (but Granger shows, rather than tells) of course comes the murder (and then another and another) upon which the plot is based. Granger manages to make all her cultural references relevant to the plot, which I appreciate, and packages the finished product neatly into a solution with some elegant Victorian flavour. While she's perhaps not at the very top of my list of favourite mystery authors, Ann Granger is certainly someone whose books I'll seek out again in the future.

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