Monday, August 2, 2010

The Unbelievers-Alastair Sim

The Unbelievers
Alastair Sim
Minotaur, Sep 14 2010, $23.99
ISBN: 9780312621698

In the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Queen Victoria, the Duke of Dornoch vanishes without a trace in Scotland. Chief Constable Sir Joseph Stewart, Her majesty’s Secretary for Scotland Viscount Dunstre, the Lord Advocate Lord Kinnordy, and Superintendent Burgess inform Inspector Archibald Allerdyce that this is a delicate matter so they must investigate with tact. Allerdyce and Sergeant Hector McGillivray begin their inquiries although the lead inspector publicly obeys but silently objects as he knows the foolishness of the aristocracy can prove a waste of time; he prefers inquiries into commoners.

The inspector quickly finds out that just before the aristocrat disappeared he received a telegram. On the Dornoch estate in Edinburgh, the two sleuths find his corpse in a well. The brass wants Allerdyce to find evidence that will hang a troublemaking mine union leader However, a second homicide has Allerdyce fearing the killer is someone he knows and cares about.

This is a fabulous Victorian era police procedural that brings to life 1865 Edinburgh as well as the workings of the British bureaucratic aristocratic leadership of that period. The inspector and the sergeant are delightful leads as they go from diplomatic low keyed inquiries into a missing duke to an assertive still discreet murder mystery and ultimately aggressive multi homicide investigation. Although readers will spot the killer before the cops, no one will care as Alastair Sim provides a strong historical whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

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