Book Review: The Head in the Ice by Richard James

The Head in the Ice by Richard James

Publisher: Sharpe Books

Date: 2020

Genre: Historical/Mystery

Plot: Who would send a madman to solve a murder?

Just released from a Lunatic Asylum, Inspector George Bowman is in no shape to lead an investigation, but the discovery of a severed head in the frozen waters of the River Thames sees him back in service at Scotland Yard. As he delves into the dark heart of the city in search of answers, the memory of the death of his wife threatens to derail his investigation and place his very sanity in peril.

Bowman must confront his demons and the part he played in her demise before he can solve the case; a case that leads him across Victorian London in pursuit of a killer.

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I received The Head in the Ice from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’ve been enjoying historical mysteries more and more lately. S.G McLean’s The Seeker and Jeri Westerson’s Crispin Guest books have engaged me more than contemporary ones. The Bowman of the Yard series (investigations set in Victorian times) was a great opportunity to continue this trend, but visiting a time I hadn’t read a lot from – yet.

My favourite thing with mysteries is not guessing the outcome – and I didn’t piece it together here either. Soon after the discovery of the first body, we are witness another murder; introduced to a criminal gang run by a crime lord with no conscience; find out about an undercover operation; and deal with an over-enthusiastic journalist and policeman alike who you know will cause trouble for our heroes.

All these distinct elements start as separate threads, each one disconnected to both each other and the investigation. But as the complicated relationships and histories between the characters are revealed, it comes together in ways you’re not expecting.

‘Really?’ Bowman raised a quizzical eyebrow. “So, death is now considered a temporary condition?”

There are few novels – let alone series – that introduce you to the primary character as he’s being released from an asylum. It’s a great introduction to George Bowman, establishing his fragile grip on his mental state after the tragic death of his wife, without needing pages of him moping around. It also means you’re not starting right at the beginning: he’s been an active policeman long before the books start, and it has consequences.

Bowman’s an engaging protagonist: he wants to see the job done even while recognising his own shortcomings, not a characteristic often present. His interactions with his friends, outside of work and in, give the impression he’s a genuine good guy, albeit one struggling.

Although Bowman is our main character, there are many others, from a tentative love interest to other members of the force. The narration follows several, keeping the momentum moving and helping you to connect with each. All have rich characterisations, from loud and confident to eager to please. They complement each other, and as a reader, you relate to the unit, as well as individual characters.

The Head in the Ice by Richard James

The plot – while full of action – moves at a gentle speed that works for the setting. This time period lends itself well to a more reflective pace unlike novels set in the present day. The switching of perspective and a couple of flash backs fill in the blanks but undermine a couple of the more tense scenes by slowing it down. Although the mystery is intriguing, it’s the characters that make this read so enjoyable, so the softer approach helps you identify with the people involved.

Who-dun-it reviews are always so tricky to write without giving away the elements that caught you by surprise. This is an engaging and entertaining book full of misdirection concealing the true events. An even balance between characterisations and action sequences ensure a gripping read from start to finish.

If you’re in to historical mysteries, or want a trip back to Victorian times, I’d recommend The Head in the Ice.

Have you read this series? Do you like historical mysteries?

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Book Review: The Head in the Ice by Richard James

A Rambling Reviewer

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58 thoughts on “Book Review: The Head in the Ice by Richard James

  1. Actually, historical mysteries are right up my street and this one sounds very intriguing. I normally go for Tudorbethan mysteries so a Victorian one would make a nice change. Fab review, enough to tease but no spoilers! Lisa

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love historical mysteries so this sounds right up my street. I agree it can be difficult to write who done it reviews but you’ve done it perfectly and made me want to read this straight away.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Okay this sounds like a perfect read from me! I wasn’t sure what to expect from the title alone, but I really enjoy mysteries and the fact that it’s set in a different time period sounds extra enticing. Thanks for sharing, adding to my reading list!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Despite the gory sounding murder (there’s nothing explicit in it), it’s a really charming read that sweeps you up in it! I hope you enjoy it when you get around to reading it!


  4. I don’t often read crime books because I can get quite scared, but I do like books that keep you guessing and have twists and turns! So I might like this one, especially as the characters sound really interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love a good mystery and I’ve been searching for one to read recently. It must be so difficult to write a review without giving away who did it! I’ve added this to my reading list! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh it is and this one kept me guessing so I certainly wouldn’t want to ruin it for anyone else. I hope you enjoy this if you get the chance to read it.


    • Oh wow, sounds like this one will tick all the boxes for you then! I really hope you enjoy it when you get the chance to read it – I’m currently looking forward to starting the second book.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This book sounds right up my street. I love a good crime novel, and this one sounds like it fits the bill. I really like when you get to know the characters and their struggles.
    I have just finished reading JD Kirk’s DCI Logan series. They are well worth a read too!

    Aimsy xoxo
    Aimsy’s Antics

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This sounds perfect for me. Love the added element of his release from the asylum. And the severed head? Bonus. I love the sound of all of the separate threads that come together too. This sounds incredibly well written and a great plot x


    Liked by 1 person

  8. This sounds interesting! I must confess I don’t really enjoy historic anything unless it’s a non fiction book on history, but the premise and description of this one made me curious. I am a fan of thrillers and mystery books so who knows, I may actually like this one! Thanks for the review!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This sounds interesting! I must confess I don’t really enjoy historic anything unless it’s a non fiction book on history, but the premise and description of this one made me curious. I am a fan of thrillers and mystery books so who knows, I may actually like this one! Thanks for the review!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh, how much I love reading mysteries! This genre is probably one of my favorites. I love the suspense, the unexpected outcome, and the tension I feel when I read such books. This one in particular sounds like something I’d truly enjoy. I’ll definitely check it out! Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. DAMN THAT COVER IS CHILLING! 😱😱 I have yet to ACTUALLY explore this genre and this one sounds just as gripping as it’s cover is! 😱😍😍😍

    LOVED THE REVIEW, Lindsey! ❤️


  12. I don’t think I’ve ever read a historical mystery but this one sounds really cool! I love that the main character is well flushed out and that you couldn’t guess the ending. Always spoils it a bit when you can see it coming.


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