After finishing the excellent Summon up the Blood, I was looking forward to the next outing of RN Morris’s detective, Silas Quinn. The books are set in 1914 London, a period of prosperity for the city which is reflected in the rise of large department stores providing wares to the middle and upper classes.
In The Mannequin House, Quinn from the Special Crimes Department is called to investigate the death of a young woman who is employed at the House of Blackley department store as a clothes model. The dead girl, Amélie, lived in a house with the other models employed at the shop and Quinn becomes suspicious of the relationship existing between the girls and the store’s charismatic owner, Benjamin Blackley. The prime suspect, however, according to local police is a small monkey wearing a fez hat who was found in the dead girl’s room. Only by digging deeper are Silas and his team able to strip away the glitter and superficial gloss of the department store and the discover true nature of its egotistical owner.
Although I’m new to Morris’s books, I find them enjoyable reads with good sense of place. Whereas in Summon up the Blood, we were treated to descriptions of the seedy side of Piccadilly with rent boys selling their bodies for pennies, in this latest book we are see the greed and exploitation that takes place around commerce in the city. The visitors to Blackley’s are portrayed as both gullible and vulnerable to the trends and caprices of the other shoppers and there is a horrific scene involving a stampede that takes place when they think a fire has broken out.
The murder of Amélie is investigated in Quinn’s usual nonconformist manner although we get to see more of the detective’s human side in this book. He is an interesting mix of bravado and uncertainty and there are hints of trauma in his past. There is a fairly small list of suspects for the actual crime and it isn’t too difficult to guess who the culprit is, although there is a nice twist in the end. I’m looking forward to reading more about Silas Quinn and his team in the future.
This post is dedicated to Maxine Clarke, who blogged at Petrona, who died yesterday. Maxine commented on the first ever post on this blog and continued to do so on a regular basis. She also became a friend. Her insightful comments, helpful support and generosity in passing on books will be greatly missed by me and all her friends in the crime fiction world. There are some excellent tributes being posted by crime fiction bloggers including Margot Kinberg, Rhian Davies, Mrs Peabody, Mysteries in Paradise, Crimescraps and Aly Monroe. Tributes are being collated by Margot here. I’d just like to add that blogging won’t be the same without you Maxine.