1889 – The World exhibition held in Paris with Eiffel’s tower as a beacon. Louis Pasteur has revolutionizes science with his study of “animals so small that they cannot be seen with the human eye”. Thoughts of equality and anarchism in the air, especially in Montmartre, the melting pot of café politics, fanaticism, culture, and crime.
Enter: Nellie Bly – reporter, amateur detective, strong-headed and independent woman searching for a murderer, she encountered while on assignment at a women’s madhouse.
Add several historical celebrities such as Louis Pasteur, Jules Verne, and Oscar Wilde.
And you have the background for “The Alchemy of Murder“.
Certainly Nellie Bly is another in the long list of strong-headed and independent woman in the Victorian era, but she is believable, neither a modern woman dropped into the Victorian era nor a femme fatale simply waiting to be swept off her feet, but a well-rounded character set in a fascinating and again believable storyline.
Believable is an applicable term regarding “The Alchemy of Murder” and I count that as high praise with historical fiction and murder mysteries. In “The Alchemy of Murder” there is the added difficulty of known characters and even here Carol McCleary seamlessly weaves historical personae and fictional characters together. Nothing feels alien in the universe of “The Alchemy of Murder“.
My conclusion is that “The Alchemy of Murder” is masterly envisioned and masterly written. I look forward to reading the next installment of Nellie Bly. (And I think I have a literary crush on Jules Verne.)
I recommend “The Alchemy of Murder” to all interested in historical fiction and a good murder mystery.