Having made himself on Fleet Street. Lestrade (first name Giles in this story) is quiet and artificially polite. He is seen as a problem by the more experienced Inspectors, and one named Johnson is forced to show him the ropes by virtue of having made the mistake do asking. It is the type to comedy one might see in a procedural story, and also the kind that might happen to someone working a job where introductons and training are seen as a burden.
He is also the only officer willing to listen when a hysteric, panicked mother comes in trying to report a missing child. He quietly takes notes from her, a form of shorthand no one else seems able to read, and valiantly sets about looking for the young boy, knowing the chances are miniscule he will be found. While Lestrade beats those odds, he is unfortunate enough to find the boy in the morgue, and also find out several other children have turned up dead in similar fashion over the past few months. Thus Lestrade, surrounded by a few trusted senior inspectors, attmepts to go after child slavers.
The story deals with the strong distrust people have for the police in the setting, and provides an example of the ways in which police so readily abused their position when not properly held accountable. It also shows the way systematic corruption and apathy can lead to the worst possible outcomes, and the distinctive harm that does on a small as well as societal level.
The investigation undertaken by Lestrade and the others involves little in the way of forensic examination, instead focusing upon methods more used in the 1870’s such as the collection of witness statements and the act of following suspects. Acknowledgement of the problems raised by each of these tactics is given, although usually ending in the officers still thinking of them as excellent tools. There is discussion of autopsies, however they are ultimately sometimes only able to reveal the obvious, and as such of limited use as investigative tools. For so brief a volume, the attempts to emulate difficulties of investigation prior to the addition of many scientific elements is greatly appreciated and somewhat impressive.
The cover design by Bryan Belanger is very nice, matching a very appropriate illustration with fonts and imagery that are appropriate, if basic. The source of the cover images not given, rather unfortunate all told, considering that it it’s well enough the lack of children is all that prevents a reader from believing it was commissioned for this book.
Tales of Scotland Yard: Lestrade is a most entertaining volume, and speaks well to publisher Orange Pip Books and author Bianca Jenkins. There is a mystery, and a carefully and considered investigation. Easy to recommend as a short and easy, if not particularly light, read. This review has failed until this line to mention Sherlock Holmes, and has done so because the book stands well enough entirely apart.
(Orange Pip Books, 2020)