London at the turn of the (last) century…
I had never heard of Kenneth Cameron’s Denton series, which was a little surprising to me, since I am a big fan of historical mysteries. But I am fond of several other Felony & Mayhem Press authors, so I was happy to receive a review copy of the first book in the series, The Frightened Man, from them. And I liked it a lot.
Denton is a former Civil War (US) veteran, and former Western frontier sheriff, now an expatriate in early 1900s London and making his living as an author. He’s got a few issues still hanging on from his past and not quite enough money in the present. But he also still has his investigative skills and life experience to rely on when a small and frightened man comes to him with a disjointed tale of seeing Jack the Ripper strike again, but then flees before telling the whole story. Denton goes to the police, who are skeptical, but some bits of the tale soon turn out to be true. (This is not much of a spoiler, since it happens right at the beginning.) Did the frightened man really see Jack the Ripper? Or was something else going on? And is the frightened man in danger too? Although Denton falls afoul of some inter-police-agency rivalries, he pushes forward with his investigation, at no small cost to himself, his manservant, and a new lady friend.
Although the book starts off rather slowly, and with a bit too much of Denton’s introspection for my taste, it picks up a little way in, and I found myself reading it in just a couple of sittings. I hope to read the next book in the series soon, and have my fingers crossed that, as the second in the series, it may start a little quicker. But that was a minor issue, and overall, I really liked The Frightened Man. In addition to an solid plot and a nice mix of characters, I also especially enjoyed Denton’s outsider’s status in London, which led him to some apt commentaries – as, when talking to the British/Canadian DS Munro about guns, he noted: “But we [the US] had slavery…Slavery, as he had worked it out, made the slaver violent.” Denton isn’t all preachy, though – at another point he says, after a night of drinking, that he “had some hope of walking off the hangover, of course an illusion – outdoor air doesn’t change the chemistry of alcohol”. Having had similar thoughts a time or two in my life, this gave me a nice chuckle.
All-in-all, The Frightened Man is an easy-to-read (after the beginning) and enjoyable mystery, and it gets four stars from me. Since I don’t give many five-star ratings, four is a solid read recommendation, and I’ll be looking for the next couple of books in the series soon. And my thanks to Felony & Mayhem Press and to Edelweiss for the review copy.