Four Thousand Days by M.J. Trow: A review

 

Historical mystery fiction featuring a female archaeologist around 1900 was a premise that intrigued me. Shades of Amelia Peabody from all those mysteries by Elizabeth Peters. In fact, Amelia and Margaret Murray would probably have been good friends. Both had a keen interest in solving modern-day mysteries as well as ancient ones. And if a murder were involved, so much the better.

Four Thousand Days introduces us to archaeologist Margaret Murray in the first book of what is planned to be a series. She is a lecturer at University College, London, and when the naked dead body of one of her students is discovered spreadeagled on the bed in her rented room soon after attending one of Dr. Murray's lectures, the teacher takes it personally. The police are convinced that it was suicide. Dr. Murray isn't so sure of that.

Although Murray's expertise is in investigating long-dead bodies, she is not averse to scrutinizing the circumstances of the death of this newly dead corpse. In probing the life and death of Helen Richardson, she soon learns that the woman had been privy to a number of secrets. Among them was information about a remarkable archaeological find. 

In trying to get to the bottom of the facts about the woman's death, Murray has a partner in a young police constable named Adam Crawford, who is also one of her students. He, too, is convinced that Helen's death was not suicide, contrary to the official finding. They are ably assisted by a retired detective inspector, Edmund Reid, who is intrigued by the puzzle of the woman's death. When the body of a second woman is found on a windswept Kent beach and this one clearly murdered, it becomes even more urgent to discover what is behind the deaths and if others are in danger.

The character of Margaret Murray is loosely based on a real person who was a pioneer in the "man's world" of academia in the early 1900s. In the world of fictional characters, she has antecedents not only in Amelia Peabody but also in Miss Marples, to name only two.  She is intelligent and curious and not at all daunted by being the lone woman in a man's world. She is a compelling character and I'll be interested to see where her creator takes her in future books.

This first entry in the series was a bit uneven and the conclusion was perhaps too convenient, but overall, it was a diverting read. There is certainly much there to build on in the future and one would hope that the characters Adam Crawford and Edmund Reid will continue to be a part of that future.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars 

Comments

  1. Sounds like this could be a really fun series. I do like the setting! And I think I'd like Margaret, too. :)

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    Replies
    1. Based on reading the first book, I'd say the series has a lot going for it and the character of Margaret is one of those positives.

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  2. I actually like the sound of this one! I'm going to see if my library has it!

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    Replies
    1. Historical mysteries are among my favorite genres.

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