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The Port of London Murders by Josephine Bell

The Port of London Murders (1938)

by Josephine Bell

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Josephine Bell was also a physician, so not surprisingly, her novels often feature a strong medical component, not the least of which were two of her doctor-protagonists. She also featured poison and other unusual methods of murder prominently in her plots. Bell and her family were experienced sailors, and the author drew upon this knowledge, too, using many vivid passages in her books that relate to the water and to various nautical details.

Water is certainly at THE PORT OF LONDON MURDERS from 1938, specifically as the title suggests, the port area of London's River Thames. It's a tough neighborhood, but the death of one Mary Holland is still a bit of a shock, even though it appears at first to be a suicide by Lysol poisoning. Tell-tale needle marks on the victim's arm lead Detective Sergeant Chandler to suspect murder tied into a drug ring—which seems even more chillingly apparent when Chandler disappears shortly after he starts to investigate, right before he's due to testify at the inquest. It's up to Inspector Mitchell of Scotland Yard to unravel the layers of deception and addiction that are exploiting rich and poor alike in a way that hasn't changed much in the seventy years since the book was written.

Bell is particularly good with settings, even the squalid ones that pop up in the novel, no doubt witnessed first-hand in her role as a physician who saw people from every walk of life. Her take on the state of medicine in her day was often somewhat bleak. ( )
  BVLawson | May 24, 2014 |
A little gritty for my taste but good plot ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 26, 2013 |
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The port area of London ?s River Thames is a tough neighbourhood but it is nevertheless shocked when Mary Holland is found dead, an apparent suicide using Lysol poison. Detective Sergeant Chandler believes it was murder and he makes investigations, but then he unaccountably disappears ?… (more)

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