Thursday, 12 September 2013

Letters from a murderer

by John Mathews
Angry Robot - Exhibit A
A Jameson and Argenti case

US/CAN Print
Date: 24th September 2013
ISBN: 9781909223370
Format: Large (Trade) Paperback
R.R.P.: US$14.99 CAN$16.99


I must admit it, I've got a soft spot for stories (in books or TV) about the Ripper. Ripper Street and most recently Withechapel immediately caught my attention, as do the books taking up the mood, style and the blackness of any good book revolving around that story. So naturally, when I saw this book on NetGalley... how to say... I could not miss it! And again, thanks to the excellent house Exhibit A I had the pleasure of reading Letters from a Murderer.


New York, 1891. A new breed of cop for a new breed of killer…

The first in a series of hard-boiled New York Victorian mysteries, featuring Finley Jameson & Joseph Argenti.

If Arthur Conan Doyle had been asked to write a sequel to Gangs of New York, then this would be it.

“One genius criminal profiler. One ruthless, streetwise cop. Both will need all their wits to capture the most notorious killer of all time.”

New York, 1891. A prostitute is found brutally murdered. The victim bears the same hallmarks as a notorious recent killing spree in England. Could it be that killer has crossed the Atlantic to fresh killing grounds? Or is this simply a copycat murder? Fear spreads through a city already rife with cut-throat gangs, corruption and vice. Aristocratic English pathologist, Finley Jameson, is teamed up with Joseph Argenti, a streetwise New York cop, to solve the case. But as the body-count rises and the killer taunts his pursuers in open letters, Jameson & Argenti find themselves fighting not just to prevent yet more victims, but also to save the city’s very soul.

What I think of it

What's about that book? The two main characters Jameson and Argenti, united for better or for worse. Worse, because Argenti, American copper, has some difficulty understanding Jameson, the English aristocrat, to the point where he began to suspect him. All opposed the street cop to the English pathologist. However, the duo works very well, helped by Lawrence, another great character who brings the better out of the two detectives. We like to follow their pilgrimage, we want to be part of their trio.

The secondary characters are also very present, we learn to know the bandits, we know that when Brogan arrives, it will go wrong, that when Tierney comes, it will end badly for someone. So there are heroes on one side, the bad guys on the other side and in between the victims. Again, the author presents them - very briefly for some of them (just the time to die, in fact) - some girls we learn to know better. We get to know the "girls", to like them and fear for them, which makes the murders of the unknown ones more tragic because it could have happened to one of the girls that we know. This is a range of well thought and well written characters you learn to appreciate - or not when it comes to Tierney or Brogan...

The atmosphere: cold, hard and filthy. We are not always in the most exclusive neighborhoods in New York. The docks are very presents, the shallows in background, taverns and brothels provide the framework for the novel. Of course, prostitutes being the victims, the poorest neighborhoods are affected, where crooks of all kinds reign. The contrast is even greater than when we follow Jameson and Argenti at the opera or in the best restaurants in New York.

The investigation was initially conducted by an incompetent lined with dirty cops. Given the lack of results, Argenti takes over the investigation but it doesn't  serve the purpose of some who resent the fact that the upright cop could gain prestige. Argenti and Jameson are launched on false leads in order to harm them, which also hinders the investigation when the killer continues to kill. This is a fight against the killer and against scammers and rogue cops in the city that the two detectives must lead.

The pace accelerates as we go along traps and the progress of the investigation. When Argenti and Jameson find who is the culprit, he does everything to escape them. We are then entitled to some spectacular scenes of chases and attempted murders. The latter being orchestrated by both the killer who will not be taken and by the local ringleader, who wants Argenti to fail.

In a nutshell

For lovers of TV shows, I would say that this novel is a beautiful blend of Ripper Street and Copper, as much for the atmosphere as for the characters. A very good book, full of action, chases and twists. This is the first novel about Argenti and Jameson and I can not wait to read more! I give it a 4/5.

My thought on closing the book: That was some fun!

Here's another great review by Josh on the book. 

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