Excerpt from The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Strings of Murder

by Oscar de Muriel

The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel X
The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel
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  • First Published:
    May 2016, 412 pages

    May 2017, 416 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
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Print Excerpt

The Strings of Murder

London on a November morning smelled of cesspools and stale alcohol from the pubs. I wrinkled my nose at the odours as I walked hastily towards Scotland Yard, dodging the half-frozen horse dung that peppered the streets.

Stench and turds were not the only foul thoughts in my head. While having breakfast I'd received a note from Wiggins, my assistant, urging me to go to headquarters. James Monro, the new commissioner, had demanded my immediate presence. I instantly knew that my career in the London police was over.

I made haste and found the hearing room gloomy as a grave. The place had wide windows but was dimly lit by a half-hidden sun so that, despite the hour, it seemed as though it was late in the evening.

I sat down and interlaced my fingers on the long table, waiting, but Monro kept his nose on the disarray of documents in front of him. I spoke only after the lapse of time that courtesy demanded: 'Excuse me, sir. You implied there was some urgency…'

Monro only lifted his index finger to silence me.

How he must be enjoying it! I thought, but all I could do was to remain in my seat, gnashing my teeth and hating his bristly mutton chops, his deviated nose and his stupid bovine eyes.

He finally spoke, looking at me with great severity.

'It is no secret that your position is overpaid and that you find it hard to cooperate with some of your colleagues. For instance, not long ago it came to my attention that you called Berry, the photographer, a…what was it? Stinking piece of rancid mutton?'

I cleared my throat. 'I am aware that my reaction may have been regarded as…severe by some people; nevertheless, I am not in the habit of mistreating—'

Monro was casting me such a killing stare that I thought it better to save my comments. '

'In brief,' he said, 'I cannot keep you in service.'

[T]he door slammed open and a short, plump man walked in briskly, wrapped in a heavy raincoat and followed by four guards and a young assistant. The man threw his coat aside and then I saw his round belly, bald head and bushy beard. I felt a twinge in my chest as I realized that it was none other than Lord Robert Cecil, Third Marques of Salisbury and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Monro stood up automatically, almost knocking over his big chair.

'Prime Minister,' Monro said lavishly. 'Welcome to our—'

'Keep the flattery to yourself,' snapped Salisbury as he walked past me. He cast me an irate stare. 'Who is this?'

Monro seemed paralyzed. He opened his mouth twice but no sound came out.

Seeing that he could not manage to speak, I bowed respectfully. 'Inspector Ian Frey, My Lord.'

'Your face is familiar,' the prime minister said. 'Are you not the detective who incarcerated the arsenic black widow?'

'Good Mary Brown,' I said at once, my chest swelling like a bellows. 'I am indeed, sir.'

There was an almost imperceptible change in Lord Salisbury's expression… I could tell a million thoughts were teeming in his head…and I did not like it.

'Leave us, Mr. Frey,' he ordered, but in a tone notably less harsh than his first roar.

I bowed again and left the room immediately, with the acute stare of the prime minister imprinted in my head.


That very morning, oblivious of what was coming upon me, I had had a prestigious job that kept me active and passionate…Yet before suppertime I had lost everything but my overblown pride.

I climbed the steps to my house and swiftly produced my keys.

This selection is excerpted with permission from Oscar de Muriel's The Strings of Murder. Reprinted by arrangement with Pegasus Books. All rights reserved.

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