From Park Row Books:
"The letter was short. A name, a time, a place.
Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder plunges readers into the heart of London, to the secret tunnels that exist far beneath the city streets. There, a mysterious group of detectives recruited for Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries use their cunning and gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped Scotland Yard.
Late one night in April 1958, a filing assistant at Miss Brickett’s receives a letter of warning, detailing a name, a time, and a place. She goes to investigate but finds the room empty. At the stroke of midnight, she is murdered by a killer she can’t see—her death the only sign she wasn’t alone. It becomes chillingly clear that the person responsible must also work for Miss Brickett’s, making everyone a suspect.
Marion Lane, a first-year Inquirer-in-training, finds herself drawn ever deeper into the investigation. When her friend and colleague is framed for the crime, to clear his name she must sort through the hidden alliances at Miss Brickett’s and secrets dating back to WWII. Masterful, clever and deliciously suspenseful, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is a fresh take on the Agatha Christie-style locked-room murder mystery, with an exciting new heroine detective."
I loved the description of Willberg's debut novel! What's not to love - a hidden detective agency below the streets of London, wondrous, magical gadgets to aid in investigations, a spunky female apprentice - and that last descriptor - Agatha-Christie-style-locked-room murder mystery.
Initially on starting to read, I thought of Platform 9 ¾. And our lead protagonist reminded me a bit of Nancy Drew. That should give you an idea about the feel of Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder. I just knew I was going to love it.
Marion is a wonderful lead - clever, curious, dogged and determined to become a full fledged Inquirer. But she has to wend her way through what is truth, what are lies and what is reality to find the perpetrator. There are many, many choices for whodunit. There are numerous characters in the book and it did take me a few chapters to remember who was who.
The setting is so detailed! I could picture myself climbing down the trapdoor stairs to find a whole 'nother world. Willberg's imaginings are fantastical. The changing paths, the gadgets, the training and so much more. The name of the agency, Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries, conjures up time and place and a bygone method of crime solving. The 1958 time period is perfect. This book wouldn't work for me in a current time.
The plot is fairly involved and will keep the reader on their toes.
Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder was a unique, wonderfully imaginative, delightfully fun read that took me away from the worries of today. I had great fun walking in Marion's footsteps as pursued the mysteries of Miss Brickett's - and the name of the murderer. And that last page.....I'm hoping there's more in store for Marion Lane.
See for yourself - here's an excerpt of Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder.