New Year's Day, 1889.In Edinburgh's lunatic asylum, a patient escapes as a nurse lays dying. Leading the manhunt are legendary local Detective 'Nine-Nails' McGray and Londoner-in-exile Inspector Ian Frey.Before the murder, the suspect was heard in whispered conversation with a fellow patient—a girl who had been mute for years. What made her suddenly break her silence? And why won't she talk again? Could the rumours about black magic be more than superstition?McGray and Frey track a devious psychopath far beyond their jurisdiction, through the worst blizzard in living memory, into the shadow of Pendle Hill—home of the Lancashire witches—where unimaginable danger awaits.
Murder, potions, curses, an asylum, a devastating snowstorm, and late-Victorian manners and morals all figure in de Muriel's delicious witches' brew of a mystery, the worthy sequel to 2016's well-received The Strings of Murder. In this outing, the mismatched detectives Insp. Ian Frey and Adolphus "Nine Nails" McCray "a lanky Londoner who fancies himself a duke, travelling with a scruffy Scotsman who wears ridiculous clothes," as one character puts it chase an escapee from an asylum who has poisoned his nurse with strychnine. The duo start in Edinburgh and end on the desolate moor of Pendle Hill, infamous home of the real-life Lancashire witches, who were executed in the 17th century. The well-paced and suspenseful plot hurtles readers through a centuries-old conspiracy coming to a head in 1883, marked by eerie questions of occult powers. But the most impressive aspect of the novel is its detailed, vivid characters, driven by powerful emotions and full of surprises.