Shadow of the Serpent, Paperback

Shadow of the Serpent Paperback

3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


The first in the McLevy series, this is wonderfully evocative detective fiction, based in dark, violent, Victorian Edinburgh.

It's 1880 and the city is gripped by election fever.

But while the rich and educated argue about politics, in the dank wynds of the city it's a struggle just to stay alive, especially when a murderous madman seems to have resurfaced after 30 years.

McLevy is lured into a world of politics, perversion, deception and mystery and into the shadow of the serpent.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Birlinn General
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Historical mysteries
  • ISBN: 9781846971938



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"Inspector McLevy of the Detective" is a striking addition to the cast of Edinburgh crime fighters, and he shares a lot of the "thrawn" nature of Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus. However, McLevy plies his investigative career in Victorian Edinburgh, a city of dark closes and alleys, particularly in Leith which is where McLevy's patch lies. A thriving port, Leith has a lurid and vibrant night life catering to the needs and desires of foreign and domestic sailors and dockers.The novel opens with the discovery of a brutally murdered corpse - a working girl who has been felled with an axe. The lugubrious McLevy is one of the first officers on the scene, accompanied by the long-suffering Constable Mulholland, and the sheer brutality of the attacks lends then additional vigour in their determination to identify and capture the culprit.McLevy is reminded of a similarly ghastly murder some thirty years ago , when he was a new constable accompanying his mentor, Sergeant Cameron, and we are given several flashbacks to earlier phases of McLevy's life and career. The first suspect is the victim's ponce (or "pounce" as the Leith vernacular has it), a characteristically unwholesome wretch. However, subsequent evidence suggests that the killer might actually be a gentleman.At the same time, former Prime Minister William Gladstone is in Edinburgh making speeches for the imminent general election in which he will be standing for the Midlothian constituency. Amazingly, a solid body of circumstantial evidence starts to emerge connecting Gladstone to the crime, and McLevy is determined to challenge him.Meanwhile Gladstone's successor as Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli (now ennobled as Lord Beaconsfield) is on the Isle of Wight, staying at Osborne House with Queen Victoria, united in their hatred of Gladstone and their fear that he might secure a return to power.Ashton manages these various threads adeptly, and weaves an innovative and engaging story out of them, with a skilful denouement.All in all a very welcome addition to the Edinburgh crime noir oeuvre.