The unlikely team of Adolphus “Nine-Nails” McGray and Ian Frey are on the case again. Lord Ardglass, a minor aristocrat in Edinburgh, has been in a mental hospital for a number of years. On New Year’s Eve, Ardglass kills a nurse and breaks out of the asylum. The investigative team is called in to track the unhinged escapee.
McGray has been assigned to head up the “Commission for the Elucidation of Unsolved Cases Presumably Related to the Odd and Ghostly”, an official, though tiny, department that looks into strange happenings. Trading barbs and mocking one another’s accents, fashion style, and manners, they still manage to be gritty, determined detectives.
Their chase takes them across rural countryside to Lancaster, England — and into a witch’s den. They are stalked through wintry fields and local inns. They witness flashing green fires across the nighttime landscape. And they track rumors of coven bent on revenge.
As soon as the clouds parted I heard the squawk of a raven, and then saw the bird flying boisterously into the now clear sky. Its winding trajectory took it east, towards a gentle slope that ascended in front of our shelter. It led to a high peak, its thick coat of snow gleaming subtly blue under the sliver of crescent moon. It was an ominous landscape, with the oak’s twisted branches swaying above us, and even I felt its influence: I thought of green torches, black cats and cawing ravens. I would not like to venture down those wild roads at night, and I feared what new adventures Nine-Nails might drag me into when he woke up.”
A Fever of the Blood, as a mystery and adventure, hangs together easier than de Muriel’s first novel, The Strings of Murder. The author seems to have more ease putting together a rollicking escapade in this book. The sparring interplay between McGray and Frey has matured as well.
The final climax, and the reveal of motivations, feels a bit unnatural and contrived. The story drives the characters, rather than the other way around in some scenes.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a strong second outing for the new novelist.
My thanks to Pegasus Books for the review copy.
By Oscar de Muriel
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Pegasus Books (April 4, 2017)
Series: McGray and Frey (#2)
Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches