Gripping supernatural crime novels capture the grime and grandeur of Victorian Edinburgh - Liam Rudden

BORN in Mexico City, crime writer Oscar De Muriel first came to the UK to complete a PhD in chemistry, while here, the germ of an the idea began to form in his mind, he’d write a whodunit with a ‘spooky’ twist.

By Liam Rudden
Friday, 30th August 2019, 4:27 pm
The Darker Arts by crime writer Oscar De Muriel
The Darker Arts by crime writer Oscar De Muriel

Several visits to Edinburgh convinced him the Capital was the perfect setting for his new supernatural crime series and Detective Nine-Nails McGray was born.

The author, who splits his time between the North of England and Mexico City, has now returned to the Capital for five gripping investigations.

The first, The Strings of Murder, introduced readers to Frey & McGray - Nine-Nails and his London side-kick Ian Frey.

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Set in Edinburgh, 1888, the death of a violinist, murdered in his home, proves puzzling when the dead virtuoso’s maid swears she heard three musicians playing that night... despite there being only one body in a locked room with no other way in or out.

Fearing a panic Scotland Yard dispatch Inspector Frey to investigate under the cover of a fake department specialising in the occult, however, Frey’s new boss, Nine-Nails, believes in the supernatural.

That mix of the occult and traditional sleuthing has served De Muriel well ever since.

In their return, A Fever of the Blood, it’s New Year’s Day in Edinburgh, 1889, where a patient has escaped a local lunatic asylum, leaving a dying nurse in his wake. Leading the manhunt Frey and McGray must track down the psychopath..

In their third outing - A Mask of Shadows - the Scottish play is coming home, but before the darlings of London theatre, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, can take their acclaimed Macbeth to the stage of the Royal Lyceum, terror treads the boards.

It was this novel that introduced me to De Muriel’s captivating ability to paint pictures of the past that are wholly absorbing.

Loch of the Dead was the fourth excursion for the two and found a mysterious woman pleading for their help after her illegitimate son receives an anonymous death threat on learning of his inheritance.

Launched earlier this month in the Ensign Ewart pub, which features in The Darker Arts, Frey and McGray return this month and must save clairvoyant Madame Katerina from the gallows when a seance she hosts ends with six dead and she the only survivor.

It’s a truly immersive world De Muriel creates, as I tweeted at end of another perfectly executed thriller: ‘Just back from a trip to the #Edinburgh of 1889 courtesy of @OscardeMuriel’s gripping new #FreyAndMcGray novel #TheDarkerArts. The closest thing I’ll get to a time machine; Oscar paints Victorian Edinburgh in all its grime and grandeur with the skill of a true artist.’

One of those books you don’t want to end, the upside is, I still have the first two Frey and McGray novels to loose myself in.

The Darker Arts, published in hardback by Orion, £18.99