Memento Mori by Paul Holbrook. Book review

Memento Mori by Paul Holbrook 2016, £8.99, CreateSpace

Reviewed by Shona Kinsella

Memento Mori is a supernatural murder mystery set in Victorian London. The protagonist, Sibelius Darke, is a photographer who provides an unusual service – he takes staged portraits of the recently deceased. The book opens with Sibelius about his work when a dead child speaks to him from the other side of his camera lens, warning him that death is coming in the form of Surma, a beast from Finnish folklore that is said to guard the gates of the underworld.

Whitechapel is haunted by grisly murders for which Sibelius himself becomes a suspect. Can he clear his name and track down the true source of these killings?

This was an excellent read and I highly recommend it. The pace is gripping, pulling you from one revelation to another and the ending was masterful. The narrative voice is perfectly evocative of Victorian London, to the point that I could hear Matthew Macfadyen in my head, with the wonderful cadence he had in his role as Inspector Reid in Ripper Street. (If this book ever makes it to the screen that would be my casting suggestion.)

I particularly enjoyed the Finnish folklore sprinkled throughout the book – an unexpected discovery and a taste of something new to me, helping to keep the novel fresh.

My only complaint is that there were some grammar and punctuation errors and the occasional missing word which indicates that the book would have benefited from a copyeditor. To be fair, I am being nit-picky with this. As a writer myself, I find it difficult not to pick up on issues like these – especially since I read this book having just finished a round of editing on my own book. My brain is somewhat programmed to look for such errors and it’s entirely possible that they would not stand out to another reader, or even to me at another point in time. Plot, pacing, characters and setting were all superbly and vividly realised and I’m really glad that I read this book.

Paul Holbrook is currently crowd-funding a sequel to this book, called Domini Mortum, through Unbound, the crowd-funding publisher. You can read an excerpt and pledge your support at https://unbound.com/books/domini-mortum

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