Monday, November 08, 2021

Down a Dark River by Karen Odden

First Lines: London. April 1878. Most of us Yard men would say that over time we develop an extra sense for danger close at hand.
After a well-publicized corruption scandal hit Scotland Yard, they're running short-handed, so when the daughter of a prominent judge is found dead in a boat on the Thames, Inspector Michael Corravan is one of the few remaining senior inspectors left who can take the case. Reluctantly, Corravan takes the case and hands off his search for a missing shipping magnate's wife to Mr. Stiles, his young colleague.
Corravan has good street sense and has a knack for digging up clues, but he's confounded when another woman's body turns up in a boat a week later. And then a third. The women seem to have no connection to each other at all, but when Mr. Stiles uncovers evidence that the missing shipping magnate's wife may not be insane and that the shipping magnate may not be as solvent as he claims to be, it begins to look as though the two cases may be connected.

Once again, the newspapers are shouting about more Scotland Yard incompetence, and Inspector Corravan is under tremendous pressure to dredge up the truth.


Down a Dark River is a very promising start to a new historical series featuring Inspector Michael Corravan, the type of multi-faceted character that readers will love to sink their teeth into. An orphan, Corravan was raised by a foster mother in the East End of London. He's been a dockworker, a bare-knuckle boxer, a river cop, and a Metropolitan police officer. His life seems to have taught him that there are two ways to deal with people: fight them or rescue them, and this attitude has caused him many problems. Even his mistress, wealthy author Belinda Gale, is finding it difficult to put up with a man who's been described more than once as a rabid bear barreling through the woods. Corravan is the type of character that can exhaust and annoy a reader-- at least he did me-- except for one thing: he does show a willingness to change the personality traits that are causing him so many personal and work-related problems. This is just the sort of rich characterization that I love.

The mystery is excellent, with plenty of misdirection. Readers have to make their way through the theft of a valuable necklace, a runaway wife, an insane asylum, the ongoing feud between the River Police and Scotland Yard, the deaths of young women who have no obvious connections to each other, and rich, entitled men who think it's beneath them to deal with the police. 

I also liked the secondary characters of young Mr. Stiles and Belinda Gale. This series isn't going to be a mere one-man show, which means readers will reap even more benefits. There's also something for the poetically inclined: Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott" is woven into the story, and since that's one of my favorite poems, it was the icing on the cake of this very well-done historical mystery. Down a Dark River is the first book by Karen Odden that I've read, but it won't be the last. I'm definitely looking forward to Inspector Corravan's next case.

Down a Dark River by Karen Odden
eISBN: 9781643858708
Crooked Lane Books © 2021
eBook, 336 pages
Historical Mystery, #1 Inspector Corravan mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Net Galley


  1. This one really interests me, Cathy. As you know, I like historical fiction, and there's just something about the Victorian Era that's just right for a mystery. I like complex lead characters, too. You got a good 'un here!

  2. Another new-to-me author and a favorite setting. Also nice, the first in a new series!

    1. It's always nice to start at the beginning, isn't it?

  3. This does sound good - thanks for pointing it out!

  4. Just read about this writer at the Jungle Reds website.


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