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Shadow of the Serpent (Inspector McLevy #1)

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  397 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
Known as the father of forensics and a likely influence on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, real-life police inspector James McLevy is here reinvented by David Ashton in this the first thrilling Inspector McLevy Mystery, Shadow of the Serpent. 1880, Edinburgh, Election fever grips the city. But while the rich and educated argue about politics, in the dank wynds of the docks it's a ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 1st 2011 by Birlinn Ltd (first published January 1st 2007)
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In the Victorian era, Edinburgh prostitutes are being murdered by a particularly vicious killer. Inspector James McLevy has seen something similar before, but can the trail really be leading to a nationally-prominent figure?

I read a lot of crime books, and being Scottish, I particularly enjoy those set in my homeland. I also enjoy anything set in the Victorian era, so this book was a real treat. The central character, James McLevy is very much his own man, doesn't suffer fools glady and relishes
This was an interesting book, I expected to settle into it like an old friend but instead found it to be a little prickly like it's protagonist Inspector James McLevy.

McLevy is a bit of an odd duck, gruff and tough and standoffish but with a sly sense of humor which I enjoyed. Here are a few witty remarks from him as he's discussing the murder he's currently investigating with his superior, "I'm sure if the woman knew what a nuisance she was going to be, she'd have arranged to be murdered in ano
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
I picked up this book hoping for an interesting read, but found it a struggle to get though. I didn't have any sympathy for any of the characters and the story didn't excite me.

I continued reading as I wanted to see the outcome, but as this story was related to real people you could have a rough idea of the outcome.

For me, the story was OK, but not a book I would encourage someone to rush out and buy.
Nov 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-books, 2013-reads
David Ashton is an excellent author. I love his writing. Inspector McLevy is a great character. The description of Edinburgh is awesome and the use of old words and Scottish words (I admit I had to use an online Scottish dictionary several times) is the cherry on the cake when it comes to authencity.
After reading the firts book in the series I understand why the original Inspector McLevy may have been an inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Can't wait to read more ...
Aug 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
Sorry, I had two attempts to read this, I managed 53% but its just too hard going. The language, the heavy back stories, the slow plot. I felt I should enjoy it; I love so many historical mysteries, but I found this one just too solid. The author failed to make Victorian Edinburgh come to life for me. A shame, but I won't be reading any more.
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
enjoyable - an Edinburgh detective in the mid 19C
Alexander Inglis
After forging through the heavy weather of David Ashton's Scottish idioms -- threatening to become a meal, or at least a side dish vs. atmosphere or spice as you'll find in Graham Thomas' Erskine Powell series -- what emerges from Shadow of the Serpent are finely etched characters from seamier neighbourhoods of 1880 Edinburgh. Detective Inspector James McLevy, himself a meaty, obsessed creature with a sort of bloody minded creative vision which helps him uncover the truth no matter how unexpecte ...more
Jun 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: period-mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
Shadow of the Serpent by David Ashton - disappointing, but very readable

I had such high hopes for this book. I read McLevy: The Edinburgh Detective by James McLevy back in 2013. Whilst it was quite 'dry' to read, it gave you a feel for the detective, his style and the sort of crimes he came up against. This is a fictionalised James McLevy and was just too sensationalist. The story, also, was well beyond the realms of credability. Having said all that, if you were to read it without knowledge of
Feb 28, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, series, historical
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A chore to get through. The plot is too intricate and the writing style- while not actually BAD- is overladen. I had trouble telling the voice of one character from another & cared very little for any of them. This is the first book in a series & is of necessity packed with introductions to the cast members we'll meet in future volumes- but Mr. Ashton has also given them all copious backstories which could easily have been revealed over the course of time.

I'm giving it two stars instead
Oct 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first James McLevy mystery, set in Leith, 1880. The murder of a prostitute, killed by an axe, brings back to McLevy's mind another, similar, murder thirty years ago. His superior officer, Lieutenant Roach, suspects McLevy of always looking for suspects among men of high standing. However, even McLevy cannot quite believe events, when his investigation leads him to become embroiled in national politics and the election between Mr Gladstone and Mr Disraeli.

I have never read any of thes
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
An interesting book. 3 parts pretty classic murder mystery, 2 parts historical fiction and 1 part political intrigue. Set, oddly enough, in Victorian Edinburgh, which gives a fairly new spin on things (at least from my perspective). It's a pretty gruesome and gripping read, if unneccesarily vulgar in the first few chapters, but as the author settles into the characters everything starts to open up. I'm not sure I totally bought the twist at the end, but it kept things from getting too set. Defin ...more
Colin Eastaugh
Sep 28, 2012 rated it liked it
for the most part this is a pretty by the numbers crime novel, full of misdirection, a gruff protagonist who doesn't play by the rules but gets things done damn it and a shadowy villian. The Edinburgh setting is used well adding character and a sense of weight to the surroundings. What doesn't work quite so well is the political commentary featured throughout the book. Although politicians do feature heavily and given those involved it would be impossible to ignore the events happening at the ti ...more
Janelle V.
For the most part I liked this novel. James McLevy is an intriguing character: hard as nails, but there is an almost mystic quality about him at times. Where the novel went off the rails for me was in the short sequences where the Serpent was plotting evil. I was much more interested in the rest of the story, especially the Gladstone parts. I will say that the novel has prompted me to read more about William Gladstone's private and public lives.
Karen Lowe
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this crime novel, particularly the bawdy background of Victorian Edinburgh. It is well paced and the characters are engaging - particularly the antihero, Inspector McLevy - and the tale is told with a great deal of wit. I would rate it as on a par with the Rebus novels and Sansom's Shardlake. Yes, as others have said, the plotline is a little unconvincing, but I've already downloaded the next in the series.
The Twins
Dec 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-series
I think I will enjoy this book and other McLevy mysteries more in 10 years time when I have more time to read and the kids are older. I feel I don't do David Ashton justice reading it before going to bed and nearly falling asleep. His books deserve a Sunday afternoon read with a pot of tea to keep you warm while you wander the cold streets of Edinburgh with James McLevy trying to solve murders. I love how he describes the town and life during Victorian times.
Philip Obermarck
Nov 23, 2013 rated it liked it
An enjoyable read, but I'm not sure if it is worth following up with the next book in the series. I was hoping for a story more entrenched in Edinburgh history rather than involving Queen Victoria, Disraeli, Gladstone and secret agents. It took me a long time to even begin to care about the characters in the story, which is never a good sign. The settings seem like they could be relocated anywhere and not change the story one bit. A good read, but not a great read.
Aunty Janet
Atmospheric murder mystery set in Victorian times. Insp McLevy investigates the murder of a prostitute which mirrors a similar murder 30 years previously. Queen Victoria, Disraeli and Gladstone are all characters in this tale. The pace is not fast and it's not a 'whodunit', but the writing beautifully describes the sometimes squalid settings and the dialogue has a charming wit. Not an all time favourite, but an enjoyable read none the less.
Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I have listened to the Inspector McLevy series on the radio and really enjoyed it especially the relationship between McLevy and Jean Brash. This was the first book I have read but I was disappointed. I just couldn’t get into it and was so bored that I gave up halfway through which I don’t often do. I didn’t like this particular mixture of political intrigue and crime detection. It just didn’t work for me.
Rosemary (grooving with the Picts)
This is an intelligent, engaging and witty read, with well drawn, believable characters. A good atmospheric setting in Victorian Edinburgh forms the background to the story (which to be honest, is the only slightly weak point of the novel). All the descriptions of Victorian society from the upper classes to the low life of Leith are convincing.
Inspector McLevy and his sidekick Mulholland are a great pairing - I look forward to reading more!
Sandy Buchanan
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the Inspector McLevey series (3 so far). Set in teh criminal underbelly of Victorian Edinburgh. Ashton creates a very atmospheric picture of what life was like for the criminal element in Edinburgh and Leith. Converted to a very successful radio series featuring Brian Cox as McLevey ( The actor not the astrophysicist!)
Suzie Grogan
Sep 18, 2011 rated it liked it
A great holiday read and well-written crime fiction. However, it is original only in the Scottish idiom and detailed description of Victorian Edinburgh.

A story that involves high powered politicians, prostitutes and grumpy detectives, it is pretty standard stuff and I am pleased I bought it at a low price for Kindle.

Charles Barrow
Jan 31, 2014 rated it liked it
A new author for me. I quite enjoyed this book, a historical detective story set in Victorian Scotland. I especially enjoyed the language, it's chock all of Scottish colloquialisms most of which I could hardly guess at (even my Kindle dictionary couldn't offer any help). You might think this would be offputting but I found it intriguing.
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
An excellent read. It may take some a few chapters to get through the accents, but it is well worth the little effort. This is the first of David Ashton's books that I have read, and will be sure to read more (in this series) and soon.

Thanks to David Ashton, for a few memorable hours in 1880, Edinburgh

Mar 22, 2014 added it
I loved the radio series and was glad to find the books in Kindle store. Of course I hear Brain Cox voice as I am reading. A great plot with sinister characters and of course the wonderful McLevy himself.
Dec 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book following a recomendation from a fellow ConstantReader here at GoodReads and reviewed it on my blog
Garden Girl
Had a bit of a hard time getting into it and the politics eluded me - Set in Victorian England and concerned Disraeli and William Gladstone as characters. It was a plot to discredit Gladstone, but to what end, I'm not sure.
David Campton
Effectively a Victorian Rebus, but the characters are well drawn and the picture of late 19th century Edinburgh similarly so. I would have given it a higher score if the storyline held together better and the denouement dud not seem so hurried. Will probably return to read others in the series.
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