The Butchered Man is the first in Harriet Smart’s historical crime series. A renowned historical saga writer, Smart has turned her mouse to crime, but her love of and knowledge of history enables something a bit special.
She particularly likes the 1840s, when, she says, “You have a crossover from late Georgian rakishness to early Victorian correctness. This is right at the beginning of the transferring of the old Watches to the new Police Force. Most Chief Constables were ex military and had a huge amount of discretion â€“ they could even design their own uniforms! Law enforcement was much simpler and with police surgeons working without the benefits of modern forensics, often by intuition, I thought it would be a fun time to explore.”
The main characters are Major Giles Vernon and his surgeon Felix Carswell. That Carswell is the bastard son of local landowner Lord Rothborough â€“ a situation he loathes to acknowledge, although benefitting considerably from the aristocrat’s patronage, makes for a fascinating set of relationships, especially when you add in Giles’ wife, who is suffering from depression, thus leaving him ‘available’.
As for the plot, we find ourselves exploring the potential killers of a man found murdered and mutilated in a ditch. There are jilted lovers and jealous rivals galore but I for one failed to spot the final denouement until it was far too late to claim any credit. Without the benefits of modern forensic surgery, mobile phones or motorbikes, the intrepid duo explore, entice, charm and inveigle their way to the truth, leaving broken hearts and missed opportunities to be met in the future.
As well as being precisely placed in its period, The Butchered Man is a thoroughly good read and is quickly attracting a strong fan base.Â The Butchered Man (Northminster Mystery) is available in both paperback and e book editions