Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A dedicated and compassionate police inspector unravels a deadly politically-motivated case of historical terrorism.
By 1878, the Whitechapel district of London had long been home to the thousands of Irish immigrants fleeing the famine and seeking work. However, conditions started to deteriorate with the influx of another wave of displaced people from Russia and Poland seeking a new life. Not only were there clashes of culture, but the Irish gang that held sway over the area was being picked apart by a rival gang with a more radical agenda for Irish Home Rule. So far, two of James McCabe’s Cobbwallers had been found shot in the back of the head and left in the road to be found.
Meanwhile, a train derailment that claimed the lives of many passengers and injured even more was suspected of being the deliberate work of the Irish Republican Brotherhood or at least staged to look like it was. Similarly, when a tragic collision on the Thames between two vessels resulting in the loss of over 500 souls soon followed, the London papers were quick to print inflammatory headlines and questionably factual stories blaming the Irish as well, fomenting fear and unrest across the city.
Inspector Michael “Mickey” Corravan is charged with looking into the suspicious nature of the collision of the Princess Alice, a pleasure steamer, and the Bywell Castle, a large commercial vessel. But from the start, the incident looks like no accident but rather another deliberate act of destruction. No group claims responsibility, and pinpointing the actual perpetrator proves to be dangerous and a test of Corravan’s integrity and loyalty.
Under A Veiled Moon is the second book in author Karen Odden’s Inspector Corravan Mystery series, and it is a complex and compelling tale. Incorporating fascinating actual incidents from the time period, it is historical mystery fiction at its best and eerily reflects similarities in our current time and society.
The story unfolds from the viewpoint of Michael Corravan, now the acting superintendent of the Wapping River Police. Corravan, an Irishman, diligently sets aside his biases for his culture and people yet still must suffer through society’s prejudices, including those of his own supervisors and others working the same case. Thankfully, he has the support of his love interest, novelist Belinda Gale, and his former partner at Scotland Yard, Gorgon Stiles. He and Stiles remain a formidable pair working in tandem on the complicated case. While Belinda doesn’t feature heavily in this book, she still has a significant role, with her outsider’s perspective, in helping Corravan view his investigation through a different pair of eyes.
The author breathes life into the time period and the London setting, so much so that I could almost smell the odors wafting off the river. I got a fascinatingly distinct impression of what life must have been like for someone like Corravan and his adopted family, the Doyles, and some of it was downright horrifying. Brief glimpses into Belinda’s life accentuate the discrepancies in living conditions, treatment, and prospects for the future between the classes, especially for the immigrants.
The plot is complex and absorbing, especially when it appears to be headed in one direction only to veer off into another. Some surprising twists and turns really upped the tension and the feeling of urgency to solve the case. Besides the eye-opening political machinations that Corravan must untangle, there is an utterly personal aspect to this case for him that was heartbreaking and absolutely riveting.
With its dedicated and conflicted police investigator, vivid historical setting, and complex plot, I recommend UNDER A VEILED MOON to mystery readers who enjoy historical mystery fiction with a political basis and tense terroristic threats and readers who enjoyed the first book in the series.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.