The Business of Blood is the first book in Kerrigan Byrne’s new Victorian-era historical mystery series. I have enjoyed her previous books: historical romance novels with angst-ridden heroes, and so I was very excited to read something completely different than Byrne’s usual fare.
This is, indeed, a departure: even though Byrne’s historical romance novels are darker than most of the books in the genre, potential readers should know that The Business of Blood is not a cozy historical mystery. There are fairly graphic descriptions of crime scenes, and while I don’t think it’s any worse than the depravity some of Byrne’s other characters have demonstrated, it’s still worth mentioning.
Fiona Mahoney, an Irish immigrant living in London, works as a crime scene cleaner. There is no shortage of work, and she is not easily shocked- until she arrives at the home of a murdered man posed in a gruesome fashion. All signs point to Jack the Ripper, who has been dormant for years. Fiona has been haunted by this elusive killer, and wonders if this is her opportunity to track down the man who killed her childhood best friend.
I’m not always a fan of first-person narration, but it works very well here because Fiona is able to convey her thoughts/suspicions directly to the reader. She is a very intrepid narrator, refusing to be reduced to societal expectations of women’s roles. Of course, she doesn’t come from a wealthy family, so she was never beholden to the strict Victorian mores of the upper class, but even working-class girls aren’t supposed to attend autopsies. Fiona pieces the information she has together methodically, examining the clues from all angles. Over the course of the narrative, several suspects emerge. I figured out the killer fairly quickly, but the denouement was still quite satisfying because the motivation came as a surprise.
Fiona receives support from a variety of secondary characters, whose diverse backgrounds reflect the demographics of London towards the end of the 19th century. There is even a hint of romance; I must strongly emphasize that the romance is very minor, although it will be interesting to see its development over the course of the series.
I would absolutely recommend The Business of Blood to fans of historical mystery, and I think this book will also appeal to fans of Byrne’s previous books because this mystery novel contains many of the elements that make her romances a success. Byrne has done a wonderful job with laying the groundwork for the subsequent books in the series. Without giving too much away, I will say that even though a mystery has been solved by the end of the book, there is so much potential for expansion, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Fiona Mahoney.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.