STARRED REVIEW
January 15, 2015

Dark humor continues in ‘Mangle Street’ follow-up

By M.R.C. Kasasian
Review by

The members of the Last Death Club are kicking the bucket one by one, some of them practically under the nose of irascible Victorian detective Sidney Grice, in The Curse of the House of Foskett. It’s the second book in M.R.C. Kasasian’s intriguing new series that debuted in 2014 with The Mangle Street Murders, featuring Grice and his young ward, March Middleton, who narrates the books in a most unusual fashion.

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The members of the Last Death Club are kicking the bucket one by one, some of them practically under the nose of irascible Victorian detective Sidney Grice, in The Curse of the House of Foskett. It’s the second book in M.R.C. Kasasian’s intriguing new series that debuted in 2014 with The Mangle Street Murders, featuring Grice and his young ward, March Middleton, who narrates the books in a most unusual fashion.

Death Club member Horatio Green approaches Grice, asking him to investigate the suspicious passing of one of the club’s original seven members, whose wills collectively stipulate that the last living member will reap all the financial benefits that have accrued in the combined coffers. During the interview, Green suddenly drops dead in Grice’s study, leaving just five members still alive. As March and her guardian begin their investigation, members continue to die in bizarre, unpleasant ways.

Kasasian has a macabre sense of humor, or perhaps it’s just a heightened sense of the macabre. Graphic descriptions can be black enough to corrode the soul—or they may leave you relishing each page, depending on your capacity for unsavory, sometimes tongue-in-cheek details. During a tidy Victorian dinner scene, we learn that the napkin ring is fashioned from a human femur. Floors, handkerchiefs and faces are never clean; the London streets are dark and rainy; one death club member sits in the filth of a decaying mansion, hidden behind a sheen of black gauze. At the same time, each page is shot through with dry humor and clever ripostes, including some humdinger non sequiturs from housemaid Molly.

The book’s period details are impeccable. Each murder is clever and twisty, and the methods employed by the unconventional—one might even say mad—detective duo may leave you shaking, though only occasionally with laughter.

Side stories are engrossing in their own right: the ongoing mystery behind the story of March and her now-dead lover, Edward; hints of a strange past involving Grice and one club member, who happens to be one of the “cursed” members of the titular Foskett family; and the quiet tie growing between March and a police detective she has nearly killed (unintentionally).

Readers alternate between exasperation at these eccentric characters and the desire to read more and more about them in this absorbing and provocative series.

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