A detective is sent to Edinburgh to examine grisly deaths that involve evisceration, violins and catgut in this intriguing new series by Oscar de Muriel

Violin

Write what you know goes the advice, and Mexican Oscar de Muriel, now living in Lancashire, plainly knows violins.

His interest in the instrument far outweighs that of the average reader and his reverence goes beyond deploying the violins/violence pun that goes begging in this story of fatal fiddles and final bows.

The Strings Of Murder by Oscar de Muriel (Penguin)

The Strings Of Murder by Oscar de Muriel (Penguin)

De Muriel has found a rich backdrop of time and place against which to set his bloody tale – he has monochromatic Edinburgh, the year of the Ripper (1888), a unit that examines supernatural crimes, eccentric characters who talk in dialect and mad happenings that could find their home comfortably in any of those pigeonholes.

Clumsiness aside (the two detective heroes are called Frey and McGrey which is needlessly confusing), there is meat on the bones of this grisly horror. Disgraced Frey is exiled north by the prime minister (yep) to investigate gruesome killings that have similarities to those of the Ripper down south but have key differences (those keys being found upon the aforementioned strings).

An eviscerated body in a locked room with a violin. And more to come. The Victorian Mulder and Scully – the believer and the doubter – are drawn in to tales of the fabled Devil’s sonata taking the souls (and guts) of the nimble-fingered maestros who dare assault its stanzas.

Frey is having none of this dark-side mumbo-jumbo but gruff McGrey has an urgent reason to believe. The solution lies between their dogmas and they run through dark Edinburgh streets in hot pursuit of red herrings and elusive truths, forever harried by fretting, catgut and F-holes.

The violins are almost a distraction – too wonky and worthy – and I suspect the next book in the series, free from that obsession, will be better.

The Strings Of Murder by Oscar de Muriel | Published by Penguin | ★★★✩✩