London 1914: Detective Inspector Silas Quinn of Scotland Yard’s Special Crime Department has a difficult case to solve. The murder and exsanguination of a young renter [rent boy/male prostitute]. Is this just a simple case of what used to be called “queer bashing” ? Or does the draining of the young man’s blood mean something much more sinister?
Inspector Quinn, a brilliant thoughtful detective with a troubled past, and a surprising record of shooting suspects, that has earned him the nickname Quick Fire Quinn, has to investigate the murky world of male prostitutes and the men who use their services.
This is a departure for author Roger Morris, who brought us the superb Porfiry Petrovich series set in late 19th Century Tsarist Russia. In Summon up the Blood he takes the reader right into the story evoking the atmosphere, and manners of the time. The writing is so good that the reader at times is given descriptions and details that he, or she, might not want to read over their morning cornflakes. But there is nothing salacious about this book, it is an intelligent story about a detective in a different society with very different values and attitudes.
‘I seem to recall that feller Wilde was always puffing away on one. The type of person you or I would call a degenerate deviant, sir, though I belive the scientific term is an invert. Macadam will correct me if I am wrong.’
Macadam nodded to signal that he acquiesced in Inchball’s terminology.
‘And so, sir, I decided to begin my enquiries with those tobacconists I knew to be favoured by the brotherhood of the bum.’
‘That’s not a scientific term, I take it?’
‘Correct, sir. It’s a term used by officers in Vice.’
Quinn’s assistants represent two faces of pre Great War society, Inchball, an old style copper set in his ways, and Macadam with boyish enthusiasm always studying new scientific and engineering skills. This contrasts with Quinn’s lack of social skills and embarrassment in dealing with the female occupants of the house where he has lodgings.
Behind all this was his anxiety over Miss Dillard. To begin with , he was embarrassed about being made to look as though he had run away from dinner on her account the other night.
Summon up the Blood has a varied cast of characters, and a narrative that includes the Special Crimes Department’s black 1912 Ford Model T, Limehouse, the East End, the British Museum, bizarre aristocratic clubs, Piccadilly, the works of Oscar Wilde, opium-soaked cigarettes, autopsies, immigrants and much more. Don’t be put off by some of the dark subject matter this is a fascinating example of historical crime fiction at its best featuring a complex new detective, Silas Quinn and set in a pivotal era in world history.
[I would hope that the publishers in future make this book available at a more realistic price. I received my copy from the author, but that has not influenced my review.]
The website of Roger Morris.