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December 13, 2019

Bowman of the Yard books 1 & 2 by Richard James ~ a Series Review

by MK French

Today I'm reviewing the first two books in the Victorian mystery series Bowman of the Yard which features Inspector George Bowman.

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The Head in the Ice by Richard James

May 2019; 978-1793873460
ebook, print (289 pages); Victorian mystery
Inspector George Bowman was just released from a lunatic asylum in 1891 London and is no shape to lead an investigation. However, a severed head was found in the Thames over the winter, so Scotland Yard needs his expertise. The investigation takes him into the seedier side of London, dredging up his memories of his dead wife. That threatens to not only derail his case but his tenuous sanity as well. In order to solve the mystery of the severed head found in the ice, Bowman will have to confront his demons and finally deal with them.

The prologue describes part of Bowman's stay in the asylum, so we see what psychiatric care was like in the Victorian period. However, keep in mind that this is the era that developed the term bedlam, so it's not going to be anything like modern care. The language used in this novel is not quite as formal and overwrought as you might expect Victorian literature to be, which makes it that much easier to read. There are a few different story threads at first that seem to be entirely separate, but gradually come together in a coherent story. Some of those threads are just sad, as they involve the underbelly of the city. In that time period, that will involve the pickpockets, smugglers, and prostitutes, as well as the upper crust set attending salons and Spiritualist displays. Even in the Victorian era, newspapers will sensationalize things in order to increase sales, and Bowman is caught up in that as well.

Since it's the Victorian era, any burst strong emotion, from yelling to banging on a desk, is seen as unbecoming behavior for an officer. George's "outbursts" when upset are particularly looked down upon because of his months spent in the asylum. He truly does care for the law and delivering justice for the dead woman that was found in the Thames, and continually chases down whatever lead he can in order to solve the mystery. It's a credit to him that he succeeds, and is able to see how all the different threads of the investigation tie together.

Buy The Head in the Ice at Amazon

The Devil In The Dock by Richard James

June 2019; 978-1099612275
ebook, print (302 pages); Victorian mystery
Inspector George Bowman was sent to the docks of London because coworkers had felt he was a loose cannon. They thought he could do no harm there, but an explosion ripping through the wharf soon changes that. The Kaiser is a mysterious figure emerging in the underworld, and he seems to have played a role in the death of Bowman's wife Anna.

The emotional outbursts mentioned in the first novel, as well as the tremors in his hands-on seeing the asylum physician again, led directly to Bowman being transferred from murder investigations to the docs at Shad Thames. Graves is as thoughtful in this novel as he was in the first, and Hicks is just as much of a jerk. It isn't that he's inept as an investigator, but he is tone-deaf and callous, primarily concerned with himself and his own needs. We meet new players in London now that Bowman is out in the docks, but his desire to actually uphold the law again is bumping up against others' wishes to do otherwise. He is summarily told to stop investigating things with the threat of his career being destroyed by the commissioner himself.  Luckily, Bowman isn't the only one interested in justice and law, and the investigation continues anyway.

This is a fairly clever police procedural, with some splashes of interpersonal drama. The actual "Devil" in the Kaiser is revealed slowly because the dockworkers don't readily confide in policemen.

Buy The Devil in the Dock at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband and three young children. 

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