Tuesday, December 22, 2020

ARC Review: Marion Lane and the Midnight Murders by T. A. Willberg

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murders

T. A. Willberg
Publication: Park Row; Original edition (December 29, 2020)

Description: The letter was short. A name, a time, a place.

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder plunges readers into the heart of London, to the secret tunnels that exist far beneath the city streets. There, a mysterious group of detectives recruited for Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries use their cunning and gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped Scotland Yard.

Late one night in April 1958, a filing assistant at Miss Brickett’s receives a letter of warning, detailing a name, a time, and a place. She goes to investigate but finds the room empty. At the stroke of midnight, she is murdered by a killer she can’t see―her death the only sign she wasn’t alone. It becomes chillingly clear that the person responsible must also work for Miss Brickett’s, making everyone a suspect.

Marion Lane, a first-year Inquirer-in-training, finds herself drawn ever deeper into the investigation. When her friend and colleague is framed for the crime, to clear his name she must sort through the hidden alliances at Miss Brickett’s and secrets dating back to WWII. Masterful, clever and deliciously suspenseful, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is a fresh take on the Agatha Christie-style locked-room murder mystery, with an exciting new heroine detective.

My Thoughts: What a gray and dreary story! The setting is London in 1958. The main character is Marion Lane. She worked for an auto repair shop and learned a lot about mechanics until a lack of business forced it to close. Now her grandmother, who moved in after her mother's suicide, is trying to pressure Marion to marry. She even goes so far as to sell her home out from under her. 

Marion's mentor Frank who was a friend of her late mother's finds her a job with Miss Brickett's Investigations & Inquiry where she is currently an apprentice. Miss Brickett's is underground both literally and figuratively. One enters through a decrepit used book store and a hidden trapdoor. The business has taken over some World War II underground shelters which were built from older facilities that may stretch back to Alchemists in the 1300a. The facility comes complete with dangerous and shifting tunnels and booby traps. Miss Brickett's also works outside the law and with questionable ethical standards.

When Michelle White who works in the Filing Department is found dead in the Lock Room, the hidden camera indicates that only Marion's mentor Frank accessed the room during the relevant time. Marion is determined to clear his name and find the real murderer and unravel the mystery of how the murder was done. There isn't much desire to get justice for Michelle who wasn't a likeable character and who had a justly earned reputation for being a snitch. She alienated almost everyone who came into contact with her. 

Marion teams up with fellow apprentice Bill and a new agent hired from the US named Kenny Hugo to solve the crime and clear her mentor's name. But the real killer has a much bigger and much more dangerous plot than they know about. He's determined to complete his dastardly plans no matter who stands in his way.

This book had shades of the MAN FROM UNCLE in the underground headquarters and even bits of HARRY  POTTER in the map which illuminates the changing tunnel systems. But it is the MAN FROM UNCLE without the dashing heroes and humor and HARRY POTTER without the magic - though some of the gadgets in the story have a bit of a magical feel. 

The characters were not very well-developed. I don't feel that I ever got to know anything about Marion and her goals other than that her mother committed suicide and she was now homeless. The other characters were all similarly one-dimensional. 

All-in-all there were few bright spots mixed in with the dreary gray in this historical mystery for me. I did like some of the gadgets.

Favorite Quote:
As much as Bill didn't recognize this side of her, neither did she. It was liberating and disorienting at the same time. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

1 comment:

  1. Not sure this one is for me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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