The Strings of Murder is the first in serial mystery series by Oscar de Muriel. The first in the Frey and McGray series, it features the odd couple pairing of Ian Frey and Adolphus (Nine-Nails) McGray. If the series continues as it has begun, it will be a pleasurable and engaging series.

Ian Frey is a privileged son of wealth and good family, though not of the idle rich. He pursed a career at Scotland Yard which came to a crushing end when his mentor was dismissed during the uproar of the Ripper murders. However, that was in part misdirection as he was soon assigned to a special subdivision in Edinburgh, a subdivision headed by McGray. Someone has eviscerated a leading violinist, perhaps in homage to the Ripper, and Frey and McGray are tasked to find the killer without sparking the kind of fear the Ripper has brought to London.

And they really are an odd-couple. McGray is the uncouth, grubby, messy, loud Oscar to Frey’s neat, dandified, persnickety Felix. They clash at first sight and yet become housemates, of course, because we have always needed a mystery series featuring Oscar and Felix and didn’t know it. They anger each other with their unbalanced personalities and quirks, but the spark and flash of conflict energizes their investigation.

Meanwhile, beneath the irritation a grudging respect and understanding is growing and yes, it takes two to solve the murders – and there are several quite grizzly murders. McGray has the occult knowledge and fascination that provides the background and mythology that motivate the murders and Frey the cool analytical rejection of the paranormal to recognize that individuals can be motivated by myths without being magic. They are a good match

The story is enlivened with some interesting secondary characters, including the house servants, as well as Katerina, a friend of McGray’s who is either clairvoyant or suspiciously well-informed. There is a strong sense of time and place – the smokey, dingy air of Edinburgh, the cold, damp weather, the poverty and wealth in close juxtaposition all make for a rich tapestry for weaving a story.

3pawsI enjoyed The Strings of Murder and look forward to the second in the series, Fever of the Blood which was recently published. Introductory novels can sometimes be a bit like a series pilot and the second and third in a series can be the very best. In this first novel, Frey is a bit of snob, and a rude snob at that. McGray is deliberately and defiantly uncouth. It would be nice to see these personality traits mellow a bit so they are stronger characters and don’t edge toward caricature. We know some of their background and can excuse their behavior, but it would wear thin over several novels. I hope for a bit of mellowing in the future.

I was given a e-galley of The Sthings of Murder by the publisher through NetGalley.

Oscar de Muriel website

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