Thursday 18 December 2014


Book review: The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel

My edition: Paperback, to be published on 12 February 2015 by Penguin, 406 pages.

Description: Edinburgh, 1888. A violinist is murdered in his home. The dead virtuoso's maid swears she heard three musicians playing in the night. But with only one body in the locked practice room - and no way in or out - the case makes no sense.

Fearing a national panic over another Ripper, Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Frey to investigate under the cover of a fake department specializing in the occult. However, Frey's new boss, Detective 'Nine-Nails' McGray, actually believes in such supernatural nonsense.

McGray's tragic past has driven him to superstition, but even Frey must admit that this case seems beyond reason. And once someone loses all reason, who knows what they will lose next...


Set in the grim Victorian times when London was covered in darkness, smog and grime and Jack the Ripper is on the loose, there are major changes happening within the ranks of Scotland Yard and Inspector Ian Frey is one of its casualties. As his job at the CID is the only role he's ever felt comfortable in and good at, he begrudgingly accepts a case in Scotland which could help him regain his status as an Inspector in London.

A violinist has been murdered in what is assumed to be a Ripper copy-cat and Frey has to work with Detective McGray, better known in the city of Edinburgh as 'Nine-Nails' as he only has nine fingers, in the apparitions subdivision. The department serves as a smokescreen for the more delicate cases Scotland Yard works on while also, genuinely, investigating the occult.

Frey soon becomes agitated with McGray's peculiar methods and the backwards mentality of his new colleagues within the department, but as his own reputation is on the line, he is determined to see it through and find the culprit. However, when one dead body leads to another and yet another, all of which are doused in superstitious, almost satanic circumstances, Frey realises he might be out of his depth and he may need McGray's expertise on the occult after all. 

This novel was a bit of a slow-burner and the prologue in particular, while adding a layer of characterisation to McGray further down the line felt out of place so prominently featured at the start as it detracted from the focus of the murders, which were the real driver of the story. It took me quite a while to feel compelled enough to continue reading and it wasn't until the very final few chapters that I was properly invested in the plot and I was genuinely interested in finding out who, or what, was behind the murders. 

Oscar de Muriel paints a gloomy and almost macabre picture of his settings; transporting the reader to the grimy Victorian streets of both London and Edinburgh with descriptive writing that often goes on a tad too long in favour of actually telling a story. In addition, with the almost comical approach to describing McGray's Scottish twang, which both Frey and myself struggled with at times, there is far too much focus on the insignificant trivialities rather than actually telling an engrossing story.

This was undoubtedly a cleverly put together murder mystery, which will leave readers guessing as to whodunit until the very end. However, the descriptive writing served as a distraction rather than adding anything of significance to the novel and because of that I found it a struggle to plough through. However, if you are already invested in Victorian settings or fiction with a crime element to it, then you'll no doubt find much more to enjoy within the pages of The Strings of Murder and will rate it higher than I did.

You can purchase a copy of the novel from Waterstones, Amazon or your own preferred retailer.

Would you like to know more about the author? You can connect with him online at:



Twitter: @oscardemuriel

Many thanks to RealReaders for an advance copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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