The Salisbury Manuscripts
A Thomas Ansell Mystery by Philip Gooden
Review: Philip Gooden introduces a new character, London attorney Thomas Ansell, in The Salisbury Manuscripts, the first in a series of Victorian mysteries set in British cathedral towns.
Tom Ansell, a fledgling attorney associated with the London law firm of Scott, Lye and Mackinzie, is summoned to Salisbury by Canon Felix Slater on a matter of law. A box given to Felix by his older brother, Percy, who had inherited it as part of their father's estate, is in question. This box contained relics, various and sundry papers, plus a diary written by their father. This diary, in the form of a series of manuscripts, relates the history and traditions of the Slater family. It also has some references to some dubious escapades that Felix now thinks should not be revealed to the public, should the manuscripts ever be published. Percy is demanding that Felix return the manuscripts inasmuch as it was his originally. Felix wants to know where the law stands on this issue. Shortly after Tom talks with Felix, Felix is murdered in his den with all his papers and correspondence strewn across his desk and the floor. The box with the manuscripts, not surprisingly, is gone. Because Tom was alone in the den and the last person (besides the murderer, of course) to see Felix alive, he becomes the police's prime suspect. But Tom believes there should be other suspects. Where was Felix's wife that evening? Where were the household servants? Where was Walter, Felix's nephew, who lived with him?
Helen Scott, the daughter of one of the law partners and the love of Tom's life, rushes to Salisbury. A fan of mysteries herself, she knows that if Tom is to be cleared she, and Tom, must find the murderer and together they are determined to do so, with, or without, the help of the police.
It takes an incredibly long time for the plot of The Salisbury Manuscripts to get going, as it were. Much of the first hundred pages or so seems to have little to do with the story such that some readers may opt to put it down before it gets interesting. Once the investigation starts, however, the pace picks up a bit and the disparate plot threads start to come together. Still, this mystery may only appeal to those patient enough to keep turning the pages.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of The Salisbury Manuscripts.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided a copy of The Salisbury Manuscripts for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Salisbury Manuscripts: Salisbury, England
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The Salisbury Manuscripts by Philip Gooden — A Thomas Ansell Mystery
Publisher: Soho Constable
Publication Date: July 2008
List Price: $24.95