Imagine the following: A chilling murder, a secret detective agency with offices located in a myriad of tunnels located beneath London, and a young apprentice determined to find the killer in order to clear one of her closest friends of the murder. In her debut novel, which is the beginning of a new series, T.A. Willberg puts a decidedly fantastic spin on the mystery novel.
Marion Lane has had a few challenging years. When her mother died, she was forced to move in with her grandmother, who wants nothing more than for Marion to find a well-off young man, and get married. Marion, however, wants more out of her life. She accepts a position as an Inquirer-in-training with Miss Brickett’s Investigations and Inquiries. And, her life does change.
Miss Brickett’s Investigations and Inquiries is an organization that works to aid the police in solving mysteries that seem unsolvable. And yet, while they are incredibly successful in finding the answers that citizens of London are seeking, Miss Brickett’s itself is a bit of a mystery. No one knows who its detectives are, how they are funded, or where they are located (a series of abandoned tunnels beneath London).
Marion is several months into her multi-year apprenticeship when one of the Inquisitors is mysteriously murdered within the agency. Given the clandestine nature of Miss Brickett’s, the killer must be one of the agency’s own. But who? And why? When the person who recommended Marion for her apprenticeship is accused of the crime, she feels that, despite her low standing within the group, she must begin her own investigation into what happened. The trail she finds will risk not only her standing with Miss Brickett’s, but her own life, and the lives of everyone else in the agency.
In her debut novel, T.A. Willberg provides an enjoyable and compelling read for those interested in mysteries with just a tinge of the fantastic! Miss Brickett’s, with its underground headquarters, secret entrance/exit, and an arsenal of somewhat anachronistic technologies, is just a bit too fantastic to be real (especially given the year in which the novel is set is 1958). However, this does not make it any less fascinating. The cast of characters is nicely portrayed and there is room, as the series continues, for them to develop and grow. The mystery is the classic “locked-room” type, where there is a small contingent of suspects, all with their own reasons for committing the murder, while simultaneously seeming beyond consideration of the crime.
Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is being promoted as the beginning of a new series. Let’s hope that the wait for the next installment is not long. A marvelous debut! Here is an interview with T. A. Willberg.