As in its predecessor, the atmospheric Snow Hill, Mark Sanderson once again proves adept at evoking the London of an earlier era. It is 1937, and on a hot July afternoon, Sanderson’s reporter protagonist John Steadman is steeling himself to propose to his girlfriend. But the chosen venue — St Paul’s Cathedral — turns out to be a fateful choice, as it is to be the site of a grisly incident. A man falls to his death and also brings about the death of a priest. Was the fatality a suicide, or was a third party involved? Shortly afterwards, parcels arrive at the Daily News, containing gruesome objects. Along with the body parts are a series of pointers to the next person who is to die: no less than the reporter John Steadman himself.

As in the previous book in the series, Sanderson once again demonstrates his welcome reluctance to settle for a by-the-numbers historical crime fiction novel, and has produced something truly quirky and unconventional. Canny readers will (if they have any sense) add this highly unusual series to their shopping lists. And let’s hope that the third (and concluding) volume will be equally unpredictable.

The Whispering Gallery is published by HarperCollins

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