The Highgate Cemetery Murder – Irina Shapiro

No stranger to historical mystery authorship (I’m sure I have her Redmond and Haze series on my TBR), Irina Shapiro writes an entirely solid novel in The Highgate Cemetery Murder. This was a smooth read with a satisfying conclusion on all fronts. Overall, I give it a 4.5-star rating. 

When Gemma Tate’s brother is killed in a freak accident with a carriage, she is devastated. She knows that these things happen but still questions how; her brother was a careful man. At the same time, Inspector Sebastian Bell is assigned to the brutal murder of an unidentifiable woman found hanging from a cross in Highgate Cemetery. However, when he goes to interview the witness who discovered the body, he finds that the witness has died in a freak carriage accident.

Although bereaved, when Gemma meets Inspector Bell, she’s cognizant enough to show him some cryptic notes that her brother made on the day he died. Quickly realizing that these notes hold a vital clue to the identity of the killer, Bell and Gemma bounce ideas off of one another and follow leads to find justice for two deaths. 

The Highgate Cemetery Murder was a very solid read. Everything from the characters to the investigation was firm and grounded, which was satisfying. The mystery plot could have been more cryptic, I think, but this was more of a procedural than a dramatic novel. I don’t imagine that all cases end with high-speed chases and fistfights in the real world. So, I think you’re looking in the wrong place if you want a book that will excite you, but if you want a genuinely enjoyable read then you’ve found the right one. 

I liked the characters, too. Gemma was a nurse in the Crimean War, bucking the stereotypes of her day by choosing not to marry and settle down. She was a strong, competent character with a sensible head on her shoulders. When she met Sebastian Bell, he recognized a kindred spirit in her, and they treated each other with the mutual respect they both deserved. Gemma was not foolish enough to insist on going on any dangerous errands but took on a couple of safer tasks pertinent to the investigation. The inspector recognized her need to be useful, so he allowed her some latitude and bounced ideas off of her. 

I just love characters with common sense. Both the inspector and Gemma showed it in spades, and it was refreshing to see. I also liked that Gemma wasn’t following the typical path of a woman in her day, but she wasn’t out there with a chip on her shoulder about how she was treated because of it. She knew she had value as herself, as a professional, and yes, as a woman. She knew she had chosen a path in life that would be met with resistance, but she went and nursed anyway because she felt like she had to. She led by example and that was heartwarming.

All in all, if you’re looking for a solid read with pleasant characters and nothing too dramatic or violent (the action, anyway; the murder was a little grisly), try The Highgate Cemetery Murder. Shapiro is an experienced writer and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Published by SamIAmReading

I am an avid reader and lover of historical mysteries and romances, but happy to take review requests and expand my horizons! All opinions in this blog are my own and have been given freely.

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