Cover image for Loch of the dead
Loch of the dead
Physical Description:
438 pages : illustration ; 24 cm.

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A mysterious woman pleads for the help of Inspectors Are and "Nine-Nails" McGray. Her son, illegitimate scion of the Koloman family, has received an anonymous death threat--right after learning he is to inherit the best part of a vast wine-producing estate.In exchange for their protection, she offers McGray the ultimate cure for his sister, who has been locked in an insane asylum after brutally murdering their parents: the miraculous waters that spring from a small island in the remote Loch Maree.The island has been a sacred burial ground since the time of the druids, but the legends around it will turn out to be much darker than McGray could have expected. Murder and increasingly bizarre happenings will intermingle throughout this trip to the Highlands, before Frey and McGray learn a terrible truth.

Author Notes

Oscar de Muriel was born in Mexico City. He is a violinist, translator, chemist, and writer who lives in Lancashire. This is his first novel.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In de Muriel's excellent fourth Victorian mystery featuring the Commission for the Elucidation of Unsolved Cases Presumably Related to the Odd and Ghostly (after 2018's A Mask of Shadows), the commission's two members, Scottish Insp. Ian Frey and his superior, Adolphus McGray, look into a particularly creepy case. In 1873, servant Millie Fletcher gives up her baby, Benjamin, the product of an assault by Maximilian Koloman, the brother of her employer, Konrad. In 1889, Maximilian signs a document on his deathbed recognizing Benjamin as his heir and asking Konrad to reunite the boy with Millie. Shortly afterward, Millie receives a note threatening her son's life. In return for Frey and McGray's help in protecting Benjamin, Millie offers to cure McGray's mentally ill sister. In search of answers, the pair travel to remote Loch Maree, the Koloman family home, which supposedly contains a healing well and which is also home to legends of Druidic rituals involving bathing in blood. There they soon have a murder to solve. De Muriel keeps the twists coming in the series' best entry to date. Agent: Maggie Hanbury, Hanbury Agency (U.K.). (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

Inspector Adolphus McGray and his long-suffering lieutenant, Inspector Ian Frey, venture forth from Victorian Edinburgh (A Mask of Shadows, 2018, etc.) to the northern reaches of Scotland to confront all manner of criminal and possibly supernatural atrocities.Sixteen years after he got his brother's housekeeper, Millie Fletcher, in the family way and then forced her to give up the baby lest a shadow fall over the lordly Kolomans, Maximilian Koloman has been struck by a deathbed change of heart. He's begged his relatives to acknowledge Benjamin Smith, who has no idea who his parents are, and to treat him as Maximilian's heir. But not everyone welcomes Benjamin with open arms. Someone's tossed through Millie's window a brick with a note reading, "KEEP YOUR BASTARD AWAY OR I SHALL KILL HIM." Frightened, Millie asks McGray for his help and protection. It's a lot to ask, but she offers something potentially wonderful in return: a draft from the fabled waters of an island spring in Loch Maree that just might be able to cure McGray's sister, Pansy, who hacked her parents to death and lopped off her brother's ring finger, giving him the nickname "Nine-Nails." Lacking McGray's motivation for the desolate trip, Frey cheers himself by bringing along his uncle, Maurice Plantard, whose instantaneous mutual antagonism with McGray threatens to overwhelm the criminal plot. And that's a lot to overwhelm, for even as the characters are congratulating themselves that no one's been killed, Benjamin's longtime guardian is murdered, and others will follow. Juniper Island, home to that healing spring, is also host to the Nellys family, whose head may have been miraculously cured already, and perhaps a flock of vampire bats as well. In fact, the horrors that swirl around the Koloman family escalate so dramatically that eventually a magnanimous criminal tells a prospective target: "I'll be kind to you. You shall be the first victim, so that you won't have to witness all of tonight's unavoidable gore." Talk about kind.Steeped in history, myth, and medical lore, murky as the deepest loch, miles from the remotest civilizing forces, this provides all the thrills of an amusement-park concession for grown-ups who want to test their limits. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

The fourth in de Muriel's series starring two late-Victorian Edinburgh detectives who are regularly assigned to bizarre paranormal mysteries is as eerie and immersive as the preceding three. The narrator, Inspector Ian Frey, a London detective unhappily transplanted to Edinburgh, is second-in-command to the eccentric Nine-Nails McGray in a sub-sub-department devoted to solving odd and ghostly crimes. This series wouldn't work if it weren't for the often-humorous tension between Frey's skepticism about the supernatural and McGray's fervent belief; this device links Frey to contemporary readers and provides neat twists when the pair are plunged into situations that can't be explained, sort of like movies about Abbott and Costello in haunted castles. McGray's intense backstory his sister, now confined to an insane asylum, murdered their parents more than a decade ago continues to haunt him, and it resurfaces in the pair's latest case when a woman, who claims that her illegitimate son has received a death threat, tells McGray where to obtain waters that will cure his sister. The case and the dream of a cure take Frey and McGray to the Highlands, to an estate where bats seem to be everywhere, a murder is committed, and suspicions of vampirism abound. A fine addition to this outstanding historical-mystery series.--Connie Fletcher Copyright 2019 Booklist