1850: When Charles Dickens discovers the corpse of an actor on the empty stage of a Manchester theatre, the renowned author himself becomes the number one suspect. But with the help of colleague and trusted friend Superintendent Jones of Bow Street, the two set out to find the identity of the real murderer. The search takes them into the slums of Manchester and to the fog-bound streets of London, where some startling discoveries are made and Dickens's life is threatened before this unusual case reaches its ultimate and thrilling climax.
Charles Dickens is portrayed in this unusual murder mystery as a man tortured by the deprivations of his past and the continuing struggles of those in the present. He is deeply affected by his first night in the police cells, described by his friend, Elizabeth who sees him as being always alone, walking off into the distance as he waves his hat.
Dickens is portrayed as famous and widely read, but also a mild, unassuming man falsely accused of the murder of someone he didn’t much like, but about whom he feels he has to be open and honest from the beginning. He’s also less worried about himself, than with a young actress who went missing at the same time.
The descriptions of late Victorian Manchester are interspersed with anecdotal examples of the tragedy of life in the slums. These give an authentic atmosphere of the time, however I found these were a distraction form the main plot, as were the many references to Dicken’s books, as well as literary works of the time as the two men vied with each other as to how many quotes they could come up with.
Dickens himself is a quiet, serious character determined to find out the truth whom readers cannot help but empathise with. An interesting detective novel with an unusual slant and worth sticking with.