Review: Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders

I’m a big fan of historical crime fiction but I just don’t read enough of it. Whenever I pick up well written book that transports me to8b25cfe8341ee30d995b241261c4df28 the period in question I’m always resolved to read more of the genre. I was inspired to try Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders when I met the author at CrimeFest this year. I had the book on my shelf and the writer, Kate Griffin’s account of how the character and name of Kitty Peck originated (she is based on Griffin’s grandmother) made me want to discover more.

Seventeen-year-old seamstress Kitty Peck is in the employment of Lady Ginger, the domineering owner of a string of music halls who has a ferocious reputation and is determined to discover why some of her girls keep disappearing. Kitty’s brother died the previous year and she is roped into a scheme to help Lady Ginger with the tantalising possibility that she might see her brother alive again. However Lady Ginger’s scheme involves using Kitty as bait to attract the potential kidnappers by dangling her over the audience every night on a makeshift trapeze.

The book’s greatest strength is its protagonist Kitty Peck. She’s both naive and brave and struggles to fulfil her mission while attempting to fly in an unsafe contraption every evening. The reader sees everything through Kitty’s eyes and, as a result, the narrative has an unworldly feel to it, reflecting the gullibility of the narrator.

The dialogue brings the book alive and Kitty’s use of the Victorian vernacular is often funny. The class divisions that were rife in the nineteenth century are mined by the writer to show the precarious lives of those involved in the music halls.

Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders is a well-written debut and I’m sure the series is already developing a readership of fans who are interested to see what happens next.

Thanks to Faber for my copy of the book.

18 thoughts on “Review: Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – Fine review as ever. Like you, I very much enjoy historical fiction, so I can see what the appeal of a novel like this would be. Add to that a solid female protagonist and it sounds very appealing. Thanks for sharing it.


  2. Kathy D.

    Sounds interesting, especially the class issues and the fact that a young woman would work at a dangerous job. This is still true over here and I’m sure all over the world.
    The death of a Cirque du Soleil artist last year and the terrible injuries, which befell eight women performers at a circus over here in recent months points out the risks of this type of work. (The women were attached only by their hair to a large contraption suspended high in the air. A piece of equipment that held up the contraption broke and they all fell to the floor. They are all injured, a few cannot walk.)


  3. I also like historical mysteries although I am less fond of mysteries with amateur detectives. The music hall environment does sound interesting. I am sure I will try this some day. I still haven’t read the historical mystery by Linda Stratmann that I heard about from you. Got to catch up on my historical mystery reading.


  4. This book sounds great, it reminds me of a crime version of Elizabeth Gaskell’s “Ruth” – as if that one did not have enough physical, psychological and structural violence, mind you.

    I am not a big fan of histoerical crime fiction and I really don’t know why. Any standout recommendations for starters?


    1. Hi Elena. I would recommend Ariana Franklin’s ‘Mistress of the Art of Death’ which really is excellent. And CJ Samson’s Matthew Shardlake series is equally good. For something more modern, try William Ryan’s books.


      1. Well, it’s a very dated book. Very moral in a 19th-century way, although it was banned when published because it was too liberal… Let me know what you think x


        1. I belong to the Portico Library in Manchester which is bound to have it. I like Gaskell’s northern connections and her emphasis on social issues. Thanks for the tip off. I do need to read less crime really as it change is good now and then.


          1. Totally understand what you say. I’m currently reading East of Eden because I needed something non-crime (I know, I just asked myself what has happened to me).


  5. Pingback: Review: Kitty Peck and the Daughter of Sorrow by Kate Griffin | crimepieces

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