Inspector Minahan Makes a Stand

by Bridget O’Donnell (Picador) ISBN 9780330544641

The title led me to think I was about to discover another fictional hero detective. Instead I was pulled into a fascinating historical account. It tells how the courage of one man was a catalyst for the 1885 turning point in a Victorian revolution that saw the rising middle class wrest influence from the aristocracy.
Inspector Minahan’s report about the corruption at his station, including the blind eye turned to Mrs Jeffries’ brothels where underage girls are offered to the nobility, leads to his demotion and resignation. He takes the issue to Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt, who turns out to be his nemesis. His fight crests a wave of developments that leads to the change of the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen. It was scary to read how themes of the 1880s like child trafficking, beliefs that sex with virgins cures disease, arrogance of a privileged class and poverty breeding crime are still alive today.
Bridget O’Donnell’s story is thoroughly researched. Her writing is fast paced and entertaining. I liked her references to authors like Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson showing how much they were chroniclers of that time. Inspector Minahan did not get a happy ending like our present day fictional detectives but I think he was more heroic than most of them.

Josine Overdevest