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Review: UNDER A VEILED MOON by Karen Odden


In the tradition of C. S. Harris and Anne Perry, a fatal disaster on the Thames and a roiling political conflict set the stage for Karen Odden’s second Inspector Corravan historical mystery. September 1878. One night, as the pleasure boat the Princess Alice makes her daily trip up the Thames, she collides with the Bywell Castle, a huge iron-hulled collier. The Princess Alice shears apart, throwing all 600 passengers into the river; only 130 survive. It is the worst maritime disaster London has ever seen, and early clues point to sabotage by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who believe violence is the path to restoring Irish Home Rule.  For Scotland Yard Inspector Michael Corravan, born in Ireland and adopted by the Irish Doyle family, the case presents a challenge. Accused by the Home Office of willfully disregarding the obvious conclusion and berated by his Irish friends for bowing to prejudice, Corravan doggedly pursues the truth, knowing that if the Princess Alice disaster is pinned on the IRB, hopes for Home Rule could be dashed forever. Corrovan’s dilemma is compounded by Colin, the youngest Doyle, who has joined James McCabe’s Irish gang. As violence in Whitechapel rises, Corravan strikes a deal with McCabe to get Colin out of harm’s way. But unbeknownst to Corravan, Colin bears longstanding resentments against his adopted brother and scorns his help. As the newspapers link the IRB to further accidents, London threatens to devolve into terror and chaos. With the help of his young colleague, the loyal Mr. Stiles, and his friend Belinda Gale, Corravan uncovers the harrowing truth—one that will shake his faith in his countrymen, the law, and himself.


REVIEW by Christina Boyd

Under a Veiled Moon is Book 2 in Karen Odden’s Victorian-era detective series, “An Inspector Corravan Mystery.” When the Princess Alice, a pleasure ship carrying over 600 passengers, is struck by a steel-hulled barge on the Thames, engulfing London in calamity, Michael Corravan, the temporary head of the Wapping River Police, is forced to wade through a torrent of deception. As the fatalities rise, newspapers direct their anger at the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Corravan, former criminal-turned-London police inspector—and Irishman in Victorian society—is given the mission of leading the investigation.

I still remember the conclusion of one letter because it seemed so preposterous: “The Irish are the dregs in the barrel, the lowest of the low. They kill their fathers, rape their sisters, and eat their children, stuffing their maws with blood and potatoes indifferently, like wild beasts.” Well, that wasn’t true of any of the Irish I knew. Indeed, as I laid my hand on the doorknob of the Goose and Gander, I was reasonably certain that inside I’d find Irish folks sitting, eating normal food, and playing cards. –Chapter 4.

Colin Doyle, a buddy of Corravan’s since their days as kids, has gotten himself in hot water with some shady creditors. To help his friend, Corravan meets with some dangerous yet powerful criminals to learn what maneuvers are happening behind the scenes. Aside from his worries for Ma Doyle and the others who had taken him in as a child, he searches for clues to help him link all of the strange occurrences, including a dead body found along the Southwark riverbank.

How did O’Hagan know that piece of information, that I’d been a star-glazer? It was years before I’d met him. I’d been barely thirteen. I was one of a hundred boys who worked under a brutal man named Simms. Then again, London’s underworld was a web of connections. It wasn’t unlikely Simms knew O’Hagan. More important to me was the reason McCabe laid down this shard of knowledge. He wanted to demonstrate his long reach—both onto Whitechapel, where I’d been a thief, and into my past. –Chapter 14.

Once Odden introduced the novelist and playwright Belinda Gale, Corravan’s love interest, I became totally invested in the story. Though they are of different social spheres, they are compatible and a match in every other sense—such a lovely, intimate parallel story.

A lit lamp hung from a heavy iron hook to the side of Belinda’s back door.
Beckoning me.
Despite all my worry, my heart lifted as I turned the key in the lock and pulled the door open to find a second lamp, illuminating the hallway.
There is nothing like knowing someone longs to see you, I thought, to banish the wretched images of the last two days. –Chapter 11.

Impeccably composed and outstanding world-building, this spectacular historical mystery had me cheering for Michael Corravan from the first pages till the last as he connected the dots—and came to understand the consequences of his own past. If you’re like me and haven’t experienced the genius of Karen Odden before, Under a Veiled Moon is a sweeping, gripping, and intimate start. How exciting to discover I've missed Book 1 and can read Down a Dark River next!


• “[An] exceptional sequel . . . Fans of Lyndsay Faye’s Gods of Gotham trilogy will be enthralled.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

• “Victorian skullduggery with a heaping side of Irish troubles.” —Kirkus Reviews

• “Charismatic police superintendent Michael Corravan is back in a gripping sequel about the mysterious sinking of the Princess Alice. Odden deftly weaves together English and Irish history, along with her detective's own story, in a way that will keep readers flipping pages long into the night.” —Susan Elia MacNeal, New York Times bestselling author of Mother Daughter Traitor Spy and the Maggie Hope series.


Karen Odden earned her Ph.D. in English from New York University and subsequently taught literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays to numerous books and journals, written introductions for Victorian novels in the Barnes & Noble classics series and edited for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture (Cambridge UP). Her previous novels, also set in 1870s London, have won awards for historical fiction and mystery. A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and the recipient of a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Karen lives in Arizona with her family and her rescue beagle Rosy.


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