Scotland Yard Inspector Michael Corravan – in his thirties, Michael has twelve years experience of policing. He had a challenging childhood because his mother went missing when he was only eleven – leaving him to fend for himself. Luckily a women named ‘Ma’ took him in off the Whitechapel streets. Before joining the police he worked on the docks as a ‘lighterman‘, and as a bare-knuckle fighter. Corrovan is single, but he is very much in love with a woman novelist called Belinda Gale. They are lovers, but each maintains their own homes. Corravan has a house in Soho, whilst Belinda lives in a more genteel neighbourhood.
Early April, 1878 – London is dreary, dark, and rainy. Inspector Corravan is sent to the docks where a woman’s body has been found in a small boat. He is resentful of being sent out to this case because he is busy working a missing persons case. Little does he know then that the two cases will converge…
It made a nice change to go back in time as it has been a while since I’ve read a historical novel.
Set in London in 1878, this book reminded me of the many aspects, both good and bad, of the 19th century. Good in that it seemed a simpler time, with a slower pace – before technology took over the world and travel from one place to another took forever. Bad in that the women of that time period were considered to be possessions of either their fathers or their husbands and were completely disenfranchised. Also, social classes were much more sharply defined – not a good thing. The chasm between wealthy and poverty stricken people was vast with the poor being utterly at the mercy of the rich as there were no social services as we have today. Even the policemen in this novel was treated with disrespect. Police then were often viewed with suspicions of being untrustworthy, inept, and corrupt. They were made to use servant’s entrances of the homes of the well-to-do. Also brought home in this novel, was the deplorable and inhumane way the mentally ill were treated back then.
The protagonist, police inspector Michael Corravan, was a likeable chap with a strong sense of moral ethics. Of humble background, he was not well educated, but he was very intelligent and tenacious in his quest for justice.
The plotting of this historical mystery was complicated yet understandable. The author’s meticulous research shows in her writing.
I very much enjoyed reading of the evolving relationships between Corravan and his fellow policemen, as well as his newfound relationship with his young lodger, Harry.
“Down A Dark River” combined themes of revenge, collusion, and crimes against women. It elaborately showed some of the historical aspects of policing which I found fascinating. It explored the disparate notions of mercy and justice.
All told, this was a well-executed mystery which marks the beginning of what I’m sure will be a successful series.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley at my request, for my own reading enjoyment and the writing of this review. Publication date: November 9, 2021
Karen Odden received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and subsequently taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays and chapters to many academic books and journals; she wrote introductions to novels by Dickens and Trollope for the Barnes and Noble Classics Series; and she served as an Assistant Editor for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture. She freely admits she might be more at home in nineteenth-century London than today, especially when she tries to do anything complicated on her iPhone. Karen resides in Arizona with her husband, two teenage children, and a ridiculously cute beagle named Rosy.