The first book in a new series by the creator of Inspector McLevy.
New Year's Day - and through the misty streets of Victorian Edinburgh, an elegant female figure walks the cobblestones with a certain vengeful purpose. Jean Brash, the mistress of the Just Land, brings her cool intelligence to solving a murder, a murder that took place in her own bawdy house (the best in Edinburgh and her pride and joy). A prominent judge, strangled and left dangling, could bring her whole life to ruin, and she didn't haul herself off the streets, up through low, dirty houses of pleasure and violent vicious men, to let that come to pass.
The search for the killers will take Jean back into her own dark past as she uncovers a web of political and sexual corruption in the high reaches of the Edinburgh establishment. A young boy's death long ago is demanding justice, but as the body count increases, she has little time before a certain Inspector James McLevy comes sniffing round like a wolf on the prowl. Jean may be on the side of natural justice, but is she on the side of the law? Or will the law bring her down?
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A fine female complement to McLevy series
This book fits nicely into the McLevy series, but with a focus on the bawdyhouse mistress and her "magpies". Ms. Brash is every bit a match for McLevy as she wades through the bodies to find the killer.
I particularly liked the combination of readers, Ashton and Redmond. I've always enjoyed Ashton's reading because I feel like I am getting to know McLevy as he was intended to be. Ms. Redmond is good match for Ashton and gives Jean Brash a thoughtful, measured tone that suits my vision of her.
These are dark novels that paint a grim picture of life in 19th century Edinburgh, particularly for the lower classes. They also portray a tough, gritty people who manage to find their way to reasonable lives.
However, I have to say that if the children's nursery rhymes that Ashton reads at the beginning of the chapters are typical of the time, they go a long way to explaining why the Scots in the book are so dour.
SIOBHAN REDMOND BRINGS JEAN BRASH TO LIFE!
There were three reasons why this audio adaptation was so enjoyable. First of all was the performance of Siobhan Redmond (the voice on "Jean Brash" in the BBC Radio 4 series of MCLEVY); as a narrator, she really brings Jean Brash's humor and ferocity of determination to life ... but then she's had many years and twelve series to hone her craft! Secondly, while I might have loved to hear Brian Cox ("McLevy" himself") narrate the parts where McLevy (a supporting character this time) appears, David Ashton narrates it in a way that makes me feel that "Lieutenant Roach" (his role in the series) is telling the story. Finally was the way David Ashton uses his voice to narrate the rhymes used to introduce each chapter; these are definitely nursery rhymes I never grew up on, but they way he reads them makes me want to hear more!
Naturally, since the story is about and concerns her, my favorite character was Jean Brash.
While I have heard both in the BBC Radio 4 series MCLEVY, this was my first time hearing them in audio=book format.
No extreme reaction, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! I hope Ms. Redmond will continue as narrator should any more "Jean Brash" mysteries be written and then adapted for audio-book.
- Anthony Scheinman