Series: The Fiona Mahoney Mysteries, #2, #2
Published by Gnarly Wool Publishing on 8th March 2021
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“Forgive me…for I have sinned.”And nothing interrupts a good confession like a murder.
Fiona Mahoney stands in the ashes of her hopes facing her tempting adversary, Inspector Grayson Croft. Her sins are about to spill from her lips, when he says the one thing that could dispel all thoughts of revelation or redemption.
Someone is leaving the corpses of prostitutes in the streets, and a name is being whispered in the fearful shadows. The name against which Fiona would sell her very soul for vengeance.
Jack the Ripper.
Old enemies and new friends join Fiona as she chases a relentless evil through the streets of Victorian London. She’ll pull upon every contact in her arsenal including Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle, Inspector Aberline, “The Hammer” a charismatic gangster, “The Blade” an enigmatic assassin, and, of course, Jack.
To have a woman struggling to break out of chains placed upon her within the very thrilling, paradoxical time period of Victorian England is frankly, a hell of a story to tell, because the possibilities are endless. Or at least, it’s Fiona Mahoney’s fight here, who somehow places herself in the crosshairs of very dangerous people as she for some inexplicable reason, goes on a self-righteous quest to chase justice for murdered sex workers. Jack the Ripper hence, is the man she’s got in her sights, just as the legendary killer has her in his
That Byrne puts this smack dab in the middle of the Ripper murders makes the series a rich fantasy-weaving ground for throwing speculations, red-herrings and suppositions at the unsolved murders during this chaotic time. And undoubtedly, I was fascinated.
But it is slow-going, given that there is a constant tendency towards purple-prose-type dialogues, introspective musings, self-questioning and reasoning rather than actual action itself. There’s also something incredibly obsessive about Fiona as she finds herself constantly out of her depth, then (quite stupidly) placing herself in situations where she shrugs off danger in search for ‘truth’ in her naïveté while trying to keep her own head above water. In short, TSTL in our modern day terms, especially during the times when she really needed to step back rather than take on things larger than herself.
Those who are looking for a romance would be disappointed that there’re just some ripples in the water, with 3 questionable men sniffing around Fiona’s seemingly preserved virginity as she conducts her business among the ‘sullied’ women. I’m not entirely sure where this is really leading as well, but if you enjoy the murky and hypocritical vagaries of Victorian morality and sexuality, this is a book that resonates with it as the characters do talk themselves in and out and around sex and what it should or should not be.
Quite a bit of history trails behind ‘A Treacherous Trade’; reading what happens in the first book is essential to understanding the sequel as there’s a lot going on at every point in time, and Byrne shows no sign of getting these pesky hanging threads to converge just yet.
This turned out a middling kind of read as the storytelling sagged a little in the middle, before the conclusion came like a rush in the last chapter without a consistent and an upward build-up. Still, it’s a series I’m hoping to see to the end, with my fingers crossed.