Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Salisbury Manuscript- Philip Gooden

The Salisbury Manuscript
Philip Gooden
Soho, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9781569475126

In 1873, London attorney Thomas Ansell travels to Salisbury to pick up Canon Felix Slater’s manuscript of his father’s explicit memoir. George Slater was a compatriot of the great romance authors like Lord Byron, but his reputation was earned for his hedonistic ways especially womanizing.

After Thomas and Slater meet, someone murders the latter in his study; the murder weapon is a flint spearhead. The local police find Ansell near the corpse with his hands wet with blood. He knows he is prime suspect though the motive the cops assign to him is greed re stealing the manuscript. Not trusting the police to look elsewhere and needing to clear his name of scandal let alone murder suspicion, Ansell investigates.

This interesting Victorian amateur sleuth hooks the audience with an engaging whodunit and an unusual writing style that initially stuns the reader, but once adjusted seems apropos as it adds to the sense of time and place. Ansell is a fascinating protagonist who knows he is in over his head when he applies his legal skills to a murder mystery, but feels he has no choice. Although the ending seems too obvious, THE SALISBURY MANUSCRIPT is a fun late nineteenth century English mystery.

Harriet Klausner

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