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 to 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.