Along Came a Fifer
Review: R. Michael Phillips introduces petty thief Ernie Bisquets, who is recruited by a private organization that works at the behest of the British Government to investigate sensitive crimes, in Along Came a Fifer ....
Ernie is released from prison early into the custody of Patterson Coats, founder of the East London Adventurers Club. Patterson's nephew Nigel is also a member of the club, as is Lily Jean Corbitt, an American, and Annie Chapman, the cook and housekeeper. Ernie is puzzled at first why the club would want a thief among them, but it's soon made clear that his talents, and connections, may come in handy. He's quickly put to the test when the club is asked to locate Manet's famous painting of a fifer, which has been stolen from the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Ernie realizes that the museum's frame restorer, Jacques Millet, is in reality the master forger Jackie Miller, who maintains a flat in London. When the team visits, they discover a dead man, not Jackie but a guard from the museum. As their investigation proceeds, it becomes far more complicated
when a master criminal makes her demands known: find the Manet and give it to her or suffer the consequences.
Along Came a Fifer ... is an utterly charming book. It is written in such a way that, if not for modern references like the cell phone and the Eurostar, it seems to take place in late 19th century England. The characters and their manner of speaking, the description of buildings and locations, even the cadence of the narrative, all evoke a Victorian, at times Holmesian, style. It's really quite remarkable.
The mystery plot isn't elaborate or even elegant, but neither is it supposed to be, and nor does it detract from the story's appeal. Rather, the book's intent is most likely to serve as an introduction to Ernie Bisquets and the members of the East London Adventurers Club. And what an interesting group of characters these are. Even the master criminal, one Phynley Paine, is compelling in her own way, and (small spoiler here) promises to be the source of future adventures for the club.
Relatively short at just 200 pages, and perfectly paced, Along Came a Fifer ... is a delightful mystery that should not be missed. The author has already announced a sequel, Rook, Rhyme & Sinker, which will be eagerly awaited.
Acknowledgment: R. Michael Phillips provided a copy of Along Came a Fifer
for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author
Rook, Rhyme & Sinker
Asylett Press (Trade Paperback), January 2011
ISBN-13: 9781934337981; ISBN-10: 1934337986
Location(s) referenced in Along Came a Fifer
: London, England, Paris, France
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Along Came a Fifer
by R. Michael Phillips An Ernie Bisquets Mystery
Publisher: Asylett Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: June 2009
List Price: $13.30