A Death at the Dionysus Club
Ned Mathey and Julian Lynes are still figuring out how to negotiate their relationship amidst the expectations of their age. The setting is Victorian-ish, but with magic a reality, and Ned’s a sportsman while Julian is more artistic and Bohemian. They don’t have the same friends, although they went through the same school as kids.
Ned has also just been put on retainer by Inspector Hatton of Scotland Yard, to assist with the new Metaphysical Crimes Squad and investigate crimes involving magic. He’s an up-and-coming professional, but he also doesn’t want his personal life investigated too closely, as the society is homophobic.
The squad’s current case involves men found dead with their hearts missing. Meanwhile, Julian is investigating a blackmailer threatening to reveal how artists are writing disreputable popular literature to make money. It all comes together at the Dionysus Club, a place for men to find others of a particular persuasion, or at least an interest in gambling, drinking, and other sins of the flesh. Yet everyone needs to keep formal attention away from the club, as reputations and livelihoods are at stake.
I’m a big fan of popular history, and in spite of the fantastic overlay, the way this story wove the need for secrecy in amongst the mystery fascinated me. Julian doesn’t have the ability to hide his nature the way Ned, a bluff, big-shouldered sportsman, does. And no one should have to, but the need to be “normal” drives much of the mystery here. Given how much rules have changed from this historical culture to ours, it’s a great reminder of how artificial such constraints can be.
(The publisher provided a digital review copy.)