Book Review: The Curse of the House of Foskett

The Curse of the House of Foskett by MRC Kasasian, The Grower Street Detective #2

25 Gower Street, 1882:

Sidney Grice once had a reputation as London's most perspicacious personal detective. But since his last case led an innocent men to the gallows, business has been light. Listless and depressed, Grice has taken to lying in the bath for hours, emerging in the evenings for a little dry toast and a lot of tea. Usually a voracious reader, he will pick up neither book nor newspaper. He has not even gathered the strength to re-insert his glass eye. His ward, March Middleton, has been left to dine alone.

Then an eccentric member of a Final Death Society has the temerity to die on his study floor. Finaly Sidney and March have an investigation to mount – an investigation that will draw them to an eerie house in Kew, and the mysterious Baroness Foskett...

Last year I read MRC Kasasian’s first book in in The Gower Street Detective The Mangle Street Murders and I thoroughly enjoyed that book. During that time I had read quite a few detective books, most of them Sherlock Holmes, and found The Mangle Street Murders a great variation on the traditional Sherlock Holmes books. Though The Gower Street Detective features a similar detective duo, there is enough difference compared to Sherlock and Watson. The one thing that struck me most about the first book in the series is that Sidney Grice, how smart he may be, wasn’t able to solve his case on time for the authorities and an innocent man was send to prison.  This is one of those things that I hadn’t read before a detective not able to solve the case and gave a nice twist in the end and made the story in all that much more gripping, because it doesn’t all ways end with a happily ever after…

The story of The Curse of the House of Foskett picks up a short while after the events of The Mangled Street Murders. Sidney Grice who in The Mangled Street Murders wasn’t able to save his man from being sent to prison, is suffering badly from it. He is clinging to this failure big time and just can’t seem to let hit go, he doesn’t let his failure down easily. And being so strict for himself he is slowly faltering away neglecting himself and his ward March Middleton as well. Added this comes the fact that nobody wants to hire Sidney any longer since he failed miserably… But just as when it seems that Sidney has reached the all time low, he gets one very special job offer from one of the members of the Final Death Society. One involving murders… lots of them and unexplainable ones… Sidney being still in a heavy depression and doesn’t feel like really undertaking anything is somehow intrigued when one and one doesn’t add up to two, like the person requesting for his help, who suddenly dies during their conversation, Sidney is interest is piqued and his mood rejuvenated and takes on this investigation.  I was impressed with the story that MRC Kasasian wrote in The Mangled Street Murders but even more impressed with what I got to read in The Curse of the House of Foskett, again the plot is a slowburner but none the less very interesting and it is just what such a detective needs. As Sidney makes his inquiries with several persons of the Last Death Society and several of their friends/dentist/physician everything becomes weirder and weirder and actually unexplainable. A tight plot is woven from the start that expands and expands as the story progresses, some of the characters that you meet up might all have a motive… but the who, who actually did it… well you will be left guessing in the end. It was an engaging story to read, well executed and very, very clever.

In The Mangled Street Murders MRC Kasasian introduced his own detective duo, Sidney Grice the ever clever, sharp minded and witty detective and his ward March Middleton, a young women having come overseas to look after Sidney. From their first introductions I was a big fan of both. And we see their characters shine once more in The Curse of the House of Foskett. Sidney though struck by his failure, once rejuvenated and back on the case he is his old self once again, making those sharp comments that have a tendency to really cut. But he also has this sort of boisterous humorous air around him, where some people only see the negative sides, Sidney always tries to see the positive side in most of the situations. March Middleton is a direct opposite pole of Sidney, where Sidney likes to act in the spur of the moment, March is much more resolved, however she also has something of competiveness inside her. She is a a women who wants to break free from the Victorian “rules” set for men and women. She wants to be a detective of her own, and working with the best in town, she can cleverly watch and learn. But she isn’t one who keeps always to herself, it great to see her character shine when she speaks her mind. Added to the main protagonists of the series, MRC Kasasian also introduces some mysterious characters of the Final Death Society, they definitely have their own oddities that readily set them apart from the others also some add a certain macabre tint to the story that is just spot on in the Victorian inspired setting.

One thing where The Curse of the House of Fosket gets a great pacing from the writing style and narration that MRC Kasasian uses. The book follows the point of view from March Middleton in the first person perspective, this is somewhat similar to Watson’s in the Sherlock books, following indirect the mind of a detective, and especially that of Sidney Grice is a lot of fun to read about because you can both the admiration and frustrations that Sidney Grice causes. Added to this comes interludes that feature of March’s troubled past, though the focus is on Sidney the indirect focus on March adds great flavour to the whole of the story. And to top it all off, the descriptions of the Victorian London that MRC Kasasian uses in his story is explained in a colourful yet dark strokes.

With The Curse of the House of Foskett, MRC Kasasian has lived up to his debut The Mangled Street Murders. This sequel has everything and much much more than I dared to imagine. He shows that his enigmatic detective duo Sidney Grice and March Middleton is here to stay. Detectives comes in many forms and shapes and for me the Victorian setting is one that lends itself the best for such a setting, and MRC Kasasian shows his vision on the Victorian age in many different colors from the bright happy times to the dark ones. There are plenty of humorous times but also some more macabre settings. The ending of The Curse of the House of Foskett is interesting to say the least. There is a definite eye opener right there and will undoubtedly lead to one interesting third book.


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