Title: Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo
Author: Selina Kray
Length: 368 Pages
Category: Historical, Mystery/Suspense
At a Glance: Kudos to Selina Kray for penning a book with substance and style and then peopling it with characters who have left me wanting so much more.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: At Scotland Yard, DI Timothy Stoker is no better than a ghost. A master of arcane documents and niggling details who, unlike his celebrity-chasing colleagues, prefers hard work to headlines. But an invisible man is needed to unmask the city’s newest amateur detective, Hieronymus Bash. A bon vivant long on flash and style but short on personal history, Bash just may be a Cheapside rogue in Savile Row finery.
When the four fangs of the Demon Cats of Scavo—trophies that protect the hunters who killed the two vicious beasts—disappear one by one, Stoker’s forced to team with the very man he was sent to investigate to maintain his cover. He finds himself thrust into a world of wailing mediums, spiritualist societies, man-eating lions, and a consulting detective with more ambition than sense. Will this case be the end of his career, or the start of an unexpected liaison? Or will the mysterious forces at play be the death of them both?
And just who is Hieronymus Bash?
Review: It took approximately three seconds of gawping at this book’s cover before I jumped on it. G’head and judge it, if you’d like, because what’s inside this beauty is every bit as fantastic as I hoped it would be, and now I’m salivating for the next book in the series.
Set in Victorian London, author Selina Kray introduces a mystery set in an enigma and wrapped in a conundrum—and then names him Hieronymus Bash. Hiero is many things: a thespian, a provider, a lush, a man who relies on his charisma and a flair for the dramatic, and he’s a consulting investigator for hire (although he isn’t the brains of the operation, and knows it). The author teases her readers horribly—in the most delicious way—as to who Hiero is. Or, perhaps I should say was because, from what I can tell, he’s suffered and has come out of it a different person. He’s lost his long-time lover, Apollo, the man who dragged Hieronymus from the gutter and helped him turn his life around, and now he’s built himself a family of sorts with his ward—and Apollo’s niece—Calliope Pankhurst (who is the brains of the operation), along with his manservant and muscle, Han Tak Hai, who is more than meets the eye. The mystery that Hiero and his cohorts have been challenged to solve is almost, almost, as confounding as the mystery of Hieronymus Bash himself, hiding in plain sight.
Detective Inspector Timothy Kipling Stoker is on thin ice. His job at Scotland Yard is in jeopardy after he blew the whistle on his former guv for skimming money off the top of the rewards his detectives received for solving crimes. Rather than earning Tim respect for his honesty, however, it earned him the scrutiny of his new Superintendent as well as making him the scourge of the Yard and a pariah amongst his fellow officers. Tim’s new assignment, the one that will either sink or save his career, is to investigate none other than one Hieronymus Bash and expose him as a fraud—for the small but unforgiveable sin of embarrassing the police by solving a presumably unsolvable case. And, there’s no small amount of irony that it’s Tim’s honesty and discretion that make him the perfect man for the job.
In an era known for its puritanical ideals, the Victorians sure did love their spiritualism, and there’s no shortage of it connected to the four fangs of Scavo and their disappearance. There’s too much detail to this part of the story to go into it all, and I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that the fangs themselves are a common thread between the four who hold them, a medium whose ‘talents’ Bash would like to expose (which earns him zero popularity points), and the mystery of who’s stolen several. The story within the story of the Fangs of Scavo is Hieronymus, Callie, and Han working to discover the whereabouts of those that have gone missing, and who’s guilty of stealing them, all while Stoker is working undercover as Tim Kipling to investigate Hiero.
Tim, or Kip as he’s dubbed, and Hiero are like moth and flame, and the more Kip tries to resist (read: deny) his attraction to Hiero, the more he’s drawn into the exotic and flamboyant man’s orbit. Who is Hieronymus Bash, the man who treads the boards, keeps an unconventional household, has a steady supply of Turkish tea and coffee on hand, who powders his face to lighten the color of his skin, is cheeky and flirtatious, and is no stranger to the bottle? Kip is as perplexed and obsessed by Hiero as I am, and I can’t wait to get to know all the man’s secrets.
I loved every single thing about this book: Kray’s voice and gift for grounding the reader in the time and place; the mystery and the story of the fangs; the way she introduced and then layered her characters until they became real and fascinating and diverse people within the framework of their story. Most of all, though, I loved the evolution of Kip’s character. He’s often described as unremarkable, but so is everyone when compared to Bash, and his history is fascinating, especially when it comes to a past that haunts him. Tim’s efforts to smother and squash his attraction to Hiero was as touching as his denial that any sort of future, never mind happiness, with the beautiful and enigmatic and confounding man could be for a man such as him. This paragraph really says it all:
If Tim could have this, only this, a sacred memory to conjure up on sleepless nights after his disgrace, all the shame and rejection and recrimination would have been worth it. To know that for one shining moment he was cherished, however ephemeral Hiero’s affections proved… He might very well survive the trials to come.
Kray writes with such grace and substance, which made this book a pleasure to get lost in for a while. And anyone who invokes Wilde (he had to get his inspiration from somewhere!) is doing everything right in my book.
You can buy Stoker & Bask: The Fangs of Scavo here: