What a splendid idea, to cast a youthful Charles Dickens as
an amateur sleuth. Our tale of woe begins in 1835, when
young Charles Dickens is a journalist at the Evening
Chronicle in London. This is first in a series called 'A
Dickens Of A Crime.' Charles' novel-writing years lie
so there is no need to have read his works to enjoy this
book, A TALE OF TWO MURDERS. Readers who are familiar with
Oliver Twist and other books, however, will understand the
social conscience of this young hero.
Kate Hogarth is the daughter of Charles' editor, and the
Scottish Hogarth family entertain the young man at a
January dinner at their home in Brompton outside London.
Charles has been covering deadly dull Parliamentary
debates, but chats about his family, until screams are
heard from the nearest house. Lord Lugoson lives in a fine
mansion and has guests, as the small group discover, with
one young lady, Christiana Lugoson, having screamed and
fainted for reasons as yet unknown. Kate is determined to
help her while Charles and Mr Hogarth are more interested
in the cause of her collapse. Christiana is taken violently
ill and does not survive the night. Was it food poisoning?
Blame the servants? Nobody else was affected. Later,
another reporter tells Charles that one year previously,
another seventeen year old young lady died in the same way.
Instincts aroused, the newshound starts to ask questions.
I was intrigued by seeing what Charles' own life was like;
his father had been in a debtor's prison and then fled to
avoid his creditors, surely a role model for Mr Micawber.
His several siblings include a brother whose education he
is supposed to supervise. The reporter attends performances
at theatres like the Garrick and Adelphi and reviews plays.
The Hogarth family having a Scottish accent makes it easy
to identify characters, and Catherine did later become Mrs
Dickens, as the author Heather Redmond explains at the end.
Some passages would not be out of place in a Jane Austen
drawing room, but we also go backstage and mudlarking,
where proper young ladies would never tread. Most of the
investigation occurs via conversations but the cast is
I enjoyed the read with its look at London society,
rigidity and notoriety. Heather Redmond has clearly had fun
dropping in recognisable literary phrases and portraying
the young Dickens, but any lover of historical crime tales
will enjoy A TALE OF TWO MURDERS.
On the eve of the Victorian era, London has a new sleuth
. . .
In the winter of 1835, young Charles Dickens is a
journalist on the rise at the Evening Chronicle. Invited
to dinner at the estate of the newspaper's co-editor,
Charles is smitten with his boss's daughter, vivacious
nineteen-year-old Kate Hogarth. They are having the best
of times when a scream shatters the pleasant evening.
Charles, Kate, and her father rush to the neighbors'
home, where Miss Christiana Lugoson lies unconscious on
the floor. By morning, the poor young woman will be dead.
When Charles hears from a colleague of a very similar
mysterious death a year ago to the date, also a young
woman, he begins to suspect poisoning and feels compelled
to investigate. The lovely Kate offers to help—using her
social position to gain access to the members of the
upper crust, now suspects in a murder. If Charles can
find justice for the victims, it will be a far, far
better thing than he has ever done. But with a twist or
two in this most peculiar case, he and Kate may be in for
the worst of times . . .