The Testimony of the Hanged Man

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Ann Granger is no stranger to crime fiction. This is the fifth is the Inspector Ross series, and she has another two series that have been going since the early 90s. This is the first book of her’s I have read, and to be honest I wasn’t completely enthralled.

Set in the 1860s, the book focusses on the investigations of Inspector Ben Ross, ably assisted by his young wife Lizzie. From what I can tell from reviews of the books earlier in the series, it began with Lizzie as the main character, with Ben now the focus this becomes another Victorian police procedural. Rather more gentle than other recent crime series I’ve discovered (Ripper Street this definitely ain’t) this book read almost as quaint. However, if you’re not into the sex and violence of other modern crime writers you may find this book a refreshing change. Think the Alexander McCall Smith of the 19th century.

The mystery itself is a strange one; following a lead from the dying words of a convicted murderer Ross is led to a house in Putney to investigate the smothering to death of a local philanthropist sixteen years ago. However, his wife’s further investigation of the crime is followed by the discovery of another body, and Ross finds himself in the middle of another murder investigation.

At the same time Ross has another case on his books; the disappearance of the wife and child of a prosperous wine merchant. However, investigation into the household shows a darker side to Victorian family life.

What this book did well was show the hideously unfair laws pertaining to marriage and divorce of the time, and I would have liked to have had more time devoted within the plot to this subject. The ‘mystery’ element wasn’t exactly mysterious as it was fairly obvious whodunnit, it was just getting round to catching them that was a problem. There  was a rather large red herring thrown in the mix as well that vexed me greatly.

All in all, a nice, not massively taxing read, beautiful cover, and fans of crime and the period should give her a try, but personally I prefer a little bit more grit.

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