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Ghosts of the West by Alec Marsh is a fast-moving historical thriller

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Written by Alec Marsh

Out now: published by Headline Publishing

Ghosts of the West by Alec Marsh (52272893)
Ghosts of the West by Alec Marsh (52272893)

I'd not heard of the Drabble & Harris series before being asked to review the latest instalment – but from the very first page, this fun, fast-moving historical thriller had me gripped. I finished it in just five sittings.

This is the third in the interwar series, featuring daring journalist Sir Percival Harris and his public school best friend and sidekick Professor Ernest Drabble. I'd not read the first two, but this was still immensely enjoyable as a standalone read.

When Sir Percival – who reminds me as a slimmer, younger but no less amorous and no more moral Boris Johnson – hears of a grave robbery in Gravesend, he immediately calls on his partner to jump on a train and help him investigate (think a younger Holmes and Watson, with Drabble having a little more joie de vivre than Conan Doyle's creation and Harris a few less brain cells than the mighty detective).

This crime is followed by a grave robbery and then a murder, and the intrepid duo are soon ocean-deep in a dangerous mystery that takes them across the Atlantic to the United States and a resurfacing grudge between Native Indians and the American settlers.

This is a real page turner and beautifully written, also giving the reader a short history lesson about the Indian Wars and the subjugation of the native tribes. Marsh also portrays a lovely image of 1930s England and the class system, especially during the voyage to America and the vast and exciting land the pair encounter on their arrival.

Apart from Drabble and Harris, there's plenty of other wonderful, rounded characters, such as Sioux warrior Black Cloud, the enigmatic Dr Charlotte Moore and the gung-ho Colonel Grant, who ran a travelling Wild West Show.

At around 250 pages, it's ideal for a holiday or bedtime read, and I for one will certainly be seeking out the first two books in the series.

Jeremy Ransome


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