The Return of Hester Lynton by Tony Evans
This is the second book of “Ten New Detective Mysteries” which stands alone, but so makes me want to find the first one! Hester Lynton is a consulting detective in London in the late 1800s, not to be confused with another resident of Baker Street, as Hester is far less afflicted with that gentleman’s dubious behavioural traits. In this entertaining and engaging book the selection of cases is made and told by Ivy Rogerson (nee Jessop), companion and assistant to the famous Miss Lynton, who has to keep her own head while others (mainly men) are losing theirs. Criminality is usually at the root of the cases Hester agrees to tackle, though “Nevertheless, some of the most noteworthy had little to do with law-breaking, being the sort of conundrums that the official police force had neither the time nor the duty to investigate.”.
Hester maintains her practice from her address at 12 Newsome Street, where people send pleads for appointments or even turn up in person, having heard of her reputation for solving problems which otherwise defy explanation and solution.Typically, from the first approach in writing or the visitor’s appearance she is able to deduce much, and she is able to choose to take on cases which appeal and charge according to her client’s means. There is a redoubtable housekeeper, Mrs Parsons, whose exact duties can include some dubious actions. Armed with a quick intelligence and a small pistol, Hester and Ivy are a formidable team; this book makes the most of a partnership of women with humour and ability despite the attitudes of most men they encounter. A glorious and entertaining series of adventures make this an engaging book, and I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.
The range of the stories in this book is a particularly enjoyable feature. An inheritance depends on solving a puzzle, and Ivy reveals the extent of her theological knowledge gleaned from growing up in a vicarage. Very much to their mutual advantage, Hester is related to Inspector Albert Brasher of the police force, and when he is particularly puzzled by an unusual case he brings it to her attention, knowing that she may well have the resources and ability needed. It is handy being on good terms with the official law enforcement agency without being hidebound by their procedures, as some cases can require a swift arrest, a backup or a more flexible attitude to wrongdoing. Lateral thinking is sometimes needed, as well as a healthy dose of suspicion when advice is sought. There is an intriguing locked room mystery for devotees of that genre, as well as dubious assignations covered. Kidnap, pursuit and pre technological crimes and misdemeanours feature throughout. A classic story of literary inspiration on holiday is most enjoyable, and Hester and Ivy are often consulted by women who respect their skills immediately. Hester is often occupied by matters of state which demand tact and sensitivity, which leaves Ivy to use her considerable ingenuity. The bizarre and inexplicable attract their attention, and there are thrilling moments of bravery on the part of both women, while taking cases for the famous and infamous in Victorian society.
This is a very enjoyable collection of short stories which I thoroughly recommend. They are clever stories which have a fine sense of atmosphere with cheeky nods to more famous stories of detection, and features of classic mysteries. The research into the times and settings is impeccable, but never interferes with the narratives. The dialogue sometimes reveals a tendency to underestimate Hester’s talents on the part of men, which both women deal with in a satisfactory manner. A great treat for mystery fans written with a light touch and a sense of fun amidst the mysteries.