by Claire A. Murray & Karen Odden
This week we have a review of Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden, along with an interesting guest post by Karen about rivers. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Under a Veiled Moon: An Inspector Corravan Mystery by Karen Odden
Reviewed by Claire A. Murray
Investigating the cause of someone’s unnatural death can be fraught with tension, lies, and false leads. In the hotbed of political and societal tensions between the Irish and English in 1878 London, Irishman Michael Corrovan—a former thief, then a Metropolitan police officer, and now with Scotland Yard—walks a tenuous line as Acting Superintendent of the Wapping River Police.
Corrovan was adopted by Mary “Ma” Doyle and grew up with her eldest son Pat (now deceased) and younger twins Colin and Elsie in the Whitechapel district. Their role enlarges as Corrovan investigates a series of incidents, including the horrific sinking of the pleasure cruiser Princess Alice, killing hundreds of men, women, and children, when it was struck by the larger, steel-hulled collier Bywell Castle that was likely four times heavier.
Corrovan’s search for the truth peels away layers of the conflict between English and Irish. The similarities between several recent disasters lead to speculation that the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) is behind them all. Or is it coincidence that an Irishman was at the helm of the Princess Alice the night she sank? Always under scrutiny lest his Irish background color his investigations, Corrovan has an ally in director of Scotland Yard, Howard Vincent, and an enemy in commissioner of Wrecks, Winthrop Rotherly.
Corrovan returns to Whitechapel and seeks information from the gang that had forced him to flee his adoptive family many years earlier. Were the Irish involved with the Princess Alice? Are other recent disasters related? Who is responsible for the burgeoning emergence of single-shot pistols from America? Is Irish-on-Irish crime connected?
The investigation continues, pressure builds to name a party responsible for the Princess Alice, and anti-Irish sentiment grows. The League of Stewards promotes racial misstatements about the Irish, and London’s newspapers print stories that spread rumor as fact. Who is sending the anonymous messages that give the newspapers their leads? How are some of the withheld case facts getting into those newspapers?
Then, Corrovan discovers Colin is involved with the Whitehall gang, and Colin resists his adoptive brother’s pleas to leave that life. Further pressure on Corrovan lies in the secret efforts by several members of Parliament to present an Irish Home Rule petition. MP Lord Baynes-Hill, a friend of Corrovan’s lover, Belinda Gayle, can delay or drop the planned petition, depending on the investigation’s outcome. Can Corrovan untangle the threads knotting his investigation?
Under a Veiled Moon is Karen Odden’s second mystery featuring Inspector Michael Corrovan, yet you need not have read the first, Down a Dark River, to understand the characters and setting. Odden’s depiction of the tensions between Irish and English, police and public, and wealthy and poor, pulls the reader under the spell of this rich story that builds to a satisfying yet realistic conclusion. I hope there is another book coming. Meanwhile, I’ll go back and read the first.
Find Me a River
By Karen Odden
I grew up in Rochester, New York, a city of gray skies, brilliant autumns, and grim winters, on the Genesee River which, by the time I was born, was heavily polluted by the nearby industries including Kodak, IBM, Xerox, and Ragu. The river wasn’t an idyllic destination like Kings River; it was murky and stank of phosphorous and tomato sauce.However, I did have access to another river, a smaller one. My grandparents lived about twenty minutes away in Bergen, a town with one blinking traffic light, yellow in all directions. Amid the pine trees that covered my grandparents’ acres flowed Black Creek. Despite its name, it was a swift-flowing river that narrowed and widened, curving amid the shadowy woods. Near the banks were tadpoles for my brother and me to find and mosquitos we had to swat. In parts of the river, green muck slicked the surface, and elsewhere the water ran clear over round river stones, like those my grandfather removed and used for his house. There was a dented metal rowboat (with no lifejackets, but those were the times), and sometimes we’d paddle around, but the unceasing current made me nervous.
As a bookworm, my real-life river merged in my mind with the rivers in novels – Laura Ingalls Wilder’s On the Banks of Plum Creek and Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond, among others. In these, rivers were places of both refuge and danger, the source of both daily sustenance and dangerous floods. This duality both frightened me and fascinated me although I couldn’t have articulated that clearly at the time.However, years later, when I encountered the Thames (from temese meaning “dark,” Middle English) in my research on Victorian England, the feeling came back to me, for I discovered that this river held a complicated, powerful position in the public imagination – both idyllic and dreadful. I distilled dozens of written Victorian accounts to reflect the ambivalence through Inspector Corravan: “Some people say the Thames is the lifeblood of the city … with boats carrying the foodstuffs and mail, textiles and machines that make our modern life what it is. But … I say it’s mostly a cesspool, a receptacle for the entire city’s detritus, complete with entrails and rotting corpses.” The truth is, it was all these things. Furthermore, being tidal, the Thames ebbs and flows twice a day for nearly 100 miles inland from the North Sea, well west of London. With each rise and fall (of up to twenty-four feet), it dumps both trash and treasures on the banks, where mud-larkers can find them. (TripAdvisor sells an outing, complete with waders, a pail, and a guide.) It may sound peculiar, but the Thames, like a loud-mouthed character, demanded a place in Down a Dark River, my first Inspector Corravan mystery. I simply had to put Michael Corravan on the river. So, as a young Irish orphan, Corravan becomes a mud-larker, then a dockworker, then a lighterman. At age nineteen, threatened by his murderous gang leader, Corravan flees Whitechapel, crossing the Thames to find work in Lambeth; the river marks the divide between his past and present, between crime and the law. Fortunately, the skills Corravan learned on the river serve him in good stead as a constable, a member of the River Police, and a Scotland Yard Inspector. The novel begins in 1878, when Corravan finds a young woman’s corpse in a small boat, floating down the Thames. The climactic scene occurs on Blackfriars Bridge with a view of St. Paul’s dome, befitting a moment when Corravan seeks to temper justice with mercy. In the sequel, Under a Veiled Moon, the river is again the site of a tragedy that begins a case. (Fortunately for my writing, plenty of terrible things happened on the river.) In September 1878, the small wooden pleasure steamer the Princess Alice was completing its daily journey along the Thames when a 900-ton iron-hulled collier, the Bywell Castle, rammed it, shearing it apart (true history).
Within minutes, the steamer sank, and all 650 passengers were thrown into the water. Over 500 drowned, and with no passenger manifest, no one knew who they were. A leisurely, entertaining journey became a terrifying, deadly nightmare; yet another instance of the river’s duality and power. And when early clues point to sabotage by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Corravan must face the duality within himself – his loyalty to his Irish friends and family and his duty to his profession – before he can solve the case.
No spoilers, but an important clue is found within yards of the river.
To enter to win a copy of Under a Veiled Moon, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “veiled,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 24, 2023. US only, and must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win–it will be deleted after the giveaway is over. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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Sounds interesting! Count me in!
I really enjoyed reading the description of the book and I’m adding it to my TBR list. Looking forward to reading the book.
This sounds fascinating! I love any mystery with history. aprilbluetx at yahoo dot com
Thanks for the chance! tWarner419@aol.com
Very interesting article by the beautiful Karen Odden. Under the Veiled Moon sounds intriguing; tha k you for the opportunity to win it.
I lived in Rochester while my husband attended RIT. Awesome sounding book!
estrella8888 at roadrunner dot com
We have a winner!