The Dead Woman of Deptford, is the sixth novel in the Inspector Ben Ross and Lizzie Martin series, but is the first novel I have read by the prolific Ann Granger. I discovered that this is the fourth series she has created. The earlier ones, all have contemporary settings, while this one is historical and set in Victorian London.
I often find when discovering a new series, at the midway point, either it contains a lot of backstory, or no information about events in earlier novels; making it difficult to know what’s really going on. This novel refreshingly has the right balance between these extremes, and I was able to get up-to-date fairly quickly.
Inspector Ross of the fledgling Scotland Yard receives a summons to Deptford, where he is asked by the local police to investigate the murder of a local moneylender Mrs Clifford. Whilst at the murdered woman’s house, his wife Lizzie (amateur investigator), along with family friends Patience and Edgar Wellings arrive, looking for Mrs Clifford.
It seems that Edgar, a junior doctor (in debt through cards), has borrowed money from her, and is now unable to repay it. Her maid Britannia Scroggs immediately identifies Edgar as the murderer of her employer. Confusion ensues, resulting in Edgar disappearing, and the discovery of another dead body.
The novel is alternately narrated by Inspector Ross and his wife Lizzie, which is a useful device as Lizzie is able to discover things, which Ben would find harder to uncover. It also enables the reader to meet other characters, such as Ben’s colleagues and Lizzie’s wider family. Before her marriage, she had been the companion to her aunt Parry, who lived in another area of London, and although her aunt has a smaller role than in earlier novels, is distinctive, as is her aunt’s nephew Frank Carterton, local MP, his fiancé Patience, and her errant brother Edgar. The servants in the novel play important roles, either in providing information, or leading our protagonists towards the murderer.
The setting of the novel in Victorian London worked well, and I got a real feel for life in that era. This novel has clearly been well researched by the author, as there are frequent passages, where we are provided with historical information, which doesn’t have much relevance to the plot, but adds a depth to the narrative.
The Dead Woman of Deptford was an enjoyable but not overly demanding read, which kept me absorbed for some time. It was also a relief to have a simpler plot, which didn’t have too many timelines and other complex plot devices that seem the norm for many contemporary crime novels. I intend to read the remaining books in the series, as I liked the central characters and the atmospheric setting.