A Plague of Lions
By Guy Fraser Ulverscroft Large Print
F. A. Thorpe Publishing, (2010)
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Harry S. Chou - September 2, 2011
The year is 1863, and Superintendent Henry Jarrett has just assumed the position of Chief of the Detective Department at Glasgow Central. Formally with the Chief of the Hong Kong police, Jarrett has returned home expecting to have a fairly sedate job that would provide little in the way of excitement. Henry Jarrett is tired, and a quiet little job is what he wants to while away the years as he awaited retirement. Jarrett never really expected to get his wish, but a man can hope. For starters, Chief Constable Rattray, his new boss is a curmudgeon who treats the staff poorly, and on the day book begins, Jarrett knows from the outset that he was not going to get to any relaxing for a long time. First thing in the morning, his breakfast at Mrs. Elsie Maitland's superior guest house for respectable single gentlemen, is interrupted by news of a bank robbery at the Byres Road branch of the Western Bank, and it only gets worse from there!
Aided by Inspector Charlie Grant and Sergeant Tommy Quinn, Jarrett finds himself in the middle of a hunt for what appears to be professional bank robbers, who tunneled in and robbed the bank's safe deposit boxes, thereby infuriating all those rich enough, or with secrets deep enough, to warrant the renting of such a box. In the midst of their investigations a much more serious crime occurs, when a fifteen-year old maid servant is ravished at knife point. On top of that, an elderly man's death might have been hastened along by a judicial dose of arsenic.
All this happens in just the first few chapters of A Plague of Lions, a thrilling mystery by Guy Fraser. At least two other Jarrett mysteries - Blade of the Assassin and Jupiter's Gold are available in large print from Ulverscroft. This is the first book by Fraser that I've read, but it will not be the last. I found the story line engaging, the story well paced, and it was a delight to work alongside of Jarrett as he attempts to solve the various crimes that Fraser heaps at his feet. Although technically a historical mystery, the 'period' of the piece severs primarily as window dressing. This story could easily have been set in a more modern period, but I like that Fraser chose to set it a bit further back in time. The setting makes for a nice change of pace when compared to modern police procedurals, and it adds a nice bit of color to the story line.
If you are not already a Guy Fraser fan, give his books a try. If they are all like A Plague of Lions you will find that he offers up a solid mystery, solved efficiently and satisfactorily by the amiable and engaging detective, Henry Jarrett.
A Plague of Lions can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft.
Special Assignments, by Boris Akunin.
Containing two interrelated historical novels. This story finds the Russian Detective Erast Fandorin pitted against two formidable foes: Jack of Spades a whimsical swindler and The Decorator a serial killer who makes Jack the Ripper look tame.
Death in the West Wind, by Deryn Lake.
This is the seventh John Rawlings' mystery set in Georgian England. In this case the detective is on his honeymoon when he is called in to investigate the death of a young woman, whose body is found draped around the figurehead of a ship. When Rawlings discovers that the girl's brother has gone missing, he knows he is onto something more complicated than just a pointless murder.