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Four Thousand Days

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1900 London: Police discover a woman’s body in a rented room and it is ruled a suicide – or is it?  Why did some people know the woman by one name, while others knew her with a different identity?  Dr Margaret Murray of University College is used to dead bodies as an archaeologist, but this one is a lot fresher and formerly one of her part time students.  Perhaps it could be to do with something she dug up…

When you open an M J Trow novel you know you are in for a witty page-turner and this is no exception.  Dr Margaret Murray was a real person who led a fascinating life so makes for an ideal protagonist for his latest series.  University College springs to life as do the mean streets of London and the windswept Kent coast.  Dr Murray doesn’t investigate alone, but is helped by an old lag who now owns a popular café, a well respected retired inspector who worked on the Ripper case, one of her female students and a dashing young constable.  The bodies start to pile up and there is a race to discover not only whodunit but what on earth Helen Richardson found that is so valuable.  You won’t know the significance of the title until the very end…consistently enjoyable and well researched compulsive reading.

I was given an arc of this book by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Set in the early C20th, I first found this a bit 'Miss Marpleish' but kept going and have to admit it was a good, light-hearted detective story with an interesting historical setting. Not sure I would carry on with the series, but enjoyed it for what it was.
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A mystery featuring Margaret Murray as investigator is something I couldn't miss. She's an interesting characters and I liked how the author developed the character.
It's a series full of potential, featuring a cast of fleshed out characters.
The solid mystery kept me guessing and I had fun in read in this story.
Can't wait to read the next one.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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I am so glad that I was given the chance to read this terrific book. Trow writes with wonderful style and grace, and her heroine Emem is perfect. Along with her erstwhile assistants Margaret Murray solves a mystery. And an excellent mystery it is. Well done to Severn House and of course MJ Trow for a remarkably humorous and exciting read. My thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read Four Thousand Days.
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Archeological cozy Murder female amateur sleuth!

Interesting start to a new series set in London in 1900. Honorary Dr. Margaret Murray seems somewhat like a younger Miss Marples. She’s shrewdly intelligent, totally committed to her discipline, curious, and a pioneer for women in what has mostly been a man’s world. Based loosely on real person, Murray is an junior archeological lecturer at University College, London at a time when women academic staff are an athemna in the male dominated halls of academia.
A young woman who attends Margaret’s public archaeological sessions one afternoon a week, and moonlights as a street walker is dead. Another of her students, Adam Crawford (a constable with Scotland Yard) is convinced her death is a murder and not a suicide as the senior constabulary would want. Margaret is determined to investigate and makes the acquaintance of retired Inspector Edmund Reid.
Reid is drawn into the investigation by curiosity, another dead body, and a barely concealed disdain for the way Detective Inspector Blunt ( his successor) is stomping all over the murders, wanting a quick result, whether that is the truth or not.
Actually there were so many characters we were introduced to I became a tad confused. I delighted in the Doctor’s unflappability, but the pace of the story was uneven. In the end the reasoning behind the resolution and Margaret’s actions were just a bit too Dan Brownish for me. 
Still, I’m eager to see where the good archaeologist might go in the future and will continue to monitor her progress.
The undercurrents of relationships, particularly sexual, in the hallowed halls of learning, have all the hallmarks of an academic Midsummers Murder type community, or as Jane Marples tells us the microcosm of a village (our village being the London halls of learning in the early 1900’s) where all types of negative behavior in the wider world are present.

A Severn ARC via NetGalley 
(Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)
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honestly? a really promising start to a series. margaret is a great protagonist, you can't help but root for her, no matter how convoluted and convenient the plot can get. but hey, sometimes that's what i need from a mystery
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A new series from the talented M. J. Trow always calls for a celebration! 

Set in London at the tail-end of Queen Victoria's reign, we meet Margaret Murray, a smart and talented  archaeologist who also lectures at University College.
But when the violent death of a female student shatters the peaceful world of Academia, it also opens a large Pandora's box full of secrets, grudges and more violent deaths....

It will be up to Margaret to painstakingly try to untangle the many threads that will lead her to the truth and unmask the vicious killer lurking around the college's grounds...

Cleverly plotted & blessed with a large cast of exquisitely drawn characters, this delightful whodunit kept me guessing all the way to its highly satisfying ending.

A marvellous murder mystery & a captivating piece of historical fiction that deserves to be enjoyed without any moderation! I simply can't wait for the next title....

Many thanks to Netgalley and Severn House for this terrific ARC
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This has been a week of mostly mysteries – or at least a week of conundrums of one sort or another. Margaret Murray’s first foray into amateur detection fits right in. But I was expecting it to considering how much I enjoyed one of the author’s previous mysteries, The Knight’s Tale.

The process of professional archaeologist and amateur detective Murray becoming involved in this case-that-is-almost-not-a-case is marvelously immersive and feels true to the character. It also does a lovely job of introducing the reader to this time and place, London in 1900 as the new century turns over and a new era is on the horizon.

It also places us squarely into the academic environment of University College – that Godless Institution – at a time when women academics were, shall we say, rather thin on the ground. Murray was (really) one of a kind. Her professional credentials are a bit haphazard, because women weren’t supposed to be what she was. But she’s doing her best – which is quite good – to encourage the women who follow in her wake.

And that’s where this story really kicks off, as one of Murray’s part-time students is a police constable called to the death of another. Constable Crawford is sure it’s murder, while the detective in charge calls it suicide – clearly because he doesn’t want to investigate the death of a prostitute.

That’s where Crawford calls in Murray, and Murray calls in retired Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Edmund Reid – who was the real life copper in charge of the Met’s investigation into the Ripper killings. As Murray and Reid poke their noses into places that someone seriously wishes they shouldn’t, the string of murders gets longer and the tempers of officialdom get shorter.

The trick, or the question, or both, is discovering what the deaths of a part-time student and part-time prostitute in London, a full-time student on an archeological dig in Kent, and the most boring professor in the entire University College have in common will require just the kind of digging that Margaret Murray can’t let go of – even if it kills her.

Margaret Murray (3rd from left) unwrapping a mummy in 1908
Escape Rating A-: Margaret Murray reads like a combination of Amelia Peabody (Crocodile on the Sandbank) and Harriet Vane (Strong Poison), all the better for Murray having been a real person, who really had the kind of background and went on the kind of adventures that make her a perfect fit for this sort of story.

Seriously, even though as a real person thrust into the role of amateur detective she’s a bit more like Nicola Upson’s version of mystery author Josephine Tey in An Expert in Murder – and their real life time periods do overlap – Murray combines Amelia Peabody’s expertise in Archaeology (and a mutual acquaintance with Flinders Petrie) with Vane’s experience walking the halls of academe at a time when women were just grudgingly accepted. At best.

While the case that Murray discovers herself in the middle of – and is nearly done in by – has just a bit of a hint of the puzzle that Mary Russell digs herself into in A Letter of Mary. (That’s a bit of a hint, BTW)

As much fun as it is to speculate about the relationships between the real historical figures that populate this story and seem to be part of Murray’s inner circle of helpers and investigators, it’s the character of Murray herself that makes this so much fun.

Often, in historical fiction of all stripes, in order to make a female character the active protagonist and give them real agency it is necessary to make them a bit anachronistic, outré, or both. They end up not feeling like creatures of their own time in order for us to identify with them in ours.

Murray’s actual biography lets the reader know that she was a person of her time – and yet that she really was doing it all uphill and against the wind, so to speak. Which allows her to speak both to her time and our own.

The real-life Margaret Murray lived to be 100. After reading Four Thousand Days, I would be thrilled to read 100 years of her adventures as an amateur detective – or pretty much anything else she – or her author – decided to turn their hand to!
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Dr. Margaret Murray, a lecturer at University College in 1900 London, is addicted to dime novels.  When Helen Richardson, an attendee at her public lectures on archaeology, is murdered she joins Constable Adam Crawford and Veronica, a student, to find the murderer.  The police have closed the case with a verdict of suicide.  Crawford is the constable who found the body and he is not satisfied with the ruling.  Following clues to a seaside town in Kent, Margaret meets retired Inspector Edmund Reid and discovers signs of a dig.  When Reid discovers a second body in the dunes, he joins Margaret and Crawford in London to investigate.  The second victim was an archaeology student at Kings’ College and Margaret obtains her notes, which reference the troublemaker Josephus.  She had been on the trail of a find that would date back to the early days of Christianity.

Each victim that is tied to their investigation was killed in a different manner - one by poison, one by strangulation and a third victim by bludgeoning.  The third victim was a professor at University College.  To get past security and negotiate the maze of corridors at the school, the murderer must have had some knowledge of the area.  Margaret and her companions must discover the connection before she becomes the next victim.

M.J. Trow has taken the real Margaret Murray and joined her with characters who allow her to shine as an investigator.  She calls herself Dr. Murray but she was largely self-taught and had not earned her degree.  She is outspoken and persists despite warnings from her superior that she could damage the school’s reputation or be terminated.  Young Crawford has not been with the police for long but he shows great promise as an investigator.  Edmund Reid was a real police investigator.  He is still dealing with the loss of his wife and his retirement, but meeting Margaret and involving himself in the investigation brings him back to life.  There are also appearances by Rudyard Kipling and William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army.  Four Thousand Days is listed as the first Margaret Murray mystery and fans of historical fiction will look forward to seeing her return for another adventure.  I would like to thank NetGalley and Severn House for providing this book for my review.
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I am sometimes hesitant to read fiction that uses real-life people as characters, but for some reason, I couldn't resist M.J. Trow's Four Thousand Days. Perhaps it was the time period-- 1900, right at the end of Victoria's reign. Perhaps it was the fact that Margaret Murray was a female archaeologist. For whatever reason, I'm glad I picked up this enjoyable historical mystery (and I appreciated the author's The Real Margaret Murray at the end of the book).

Dr. Margaret Murray isn't the only interesting character in the book. There's the handsome Constable Adam Crawford who attends Murray's free archaeology lectures on Fridays and has a keen eye for rooting out clues to solving crimes. There's retired Scotland Yard inspector Edmund Reid, subject of the popular Inspector Dier mystery novels. There's Tom, a former thief and erstwhile chef and server at Murray's favorite watering hole, the Jeremy Bentham. Of Murray's students, the standout for me was Janet Bairnsfather, "the Job of University College," who's much too rigidly proper to fit in well with Murray and her inner circle of students. Even the characters on the periphery are interesting, and sometimes good for a laugh or two, like the Herne Bay Decorum Society, "...a not-very-well-meaning clique of busybodies, largely female...who twitch curtains and look for outrage."

The mystery is a good one, and I was dying to find out what the archaeological find was. When I did learn, I think my jaw hit the floor. (And that was also when I learned the significance of the book title.)

Four Thousand Days is a well-written, thoroughly enjoyable historical mystery, and I'm looking forward to seeing Margaret Murray in the future.
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The real Margaret Murray was an archeologist, folklore scholar and anthropologist.  In Four Thousand Days, M. J. Trow sets her loose at University College, London amidst a group of young students and murder.

The characters are interesting, the setting is wonderful, and the mystery full of red herrings and real clues.

The fictional Margaret Murray is a great addition to the amateur detective ranks, and I hope we get to read more about her.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Severn House for an e-galley of this novel.

I knew pretty early on in my reading of this novel that it was not going to be a favorite for me, but I wanted to give the author every opportunity to change my opinion. I will not be continuing with any more books in the series. Mainly it is because I never made any kind of connection at all with Margaret Murray, the main character in this story. Ms Murray was an actual lecturer at University College London in 1900 and this series seems as if it will be highlighting her specialty in archaeology, this story centers around findings from a non-professional dig. There is a large group of characters to keep track of with my favorite being the police constable on his rounds in the neighborhood when the first body was found. Maybe you will be more impressed with the stuffed owl than I was; the inclusion can always be put down to whimsy. Most of all I don't think the action Margaret took at the end of the story was at all in keeping with the personality that had been built up for her over the rest of the story. It was a disappointment. Any novel that requires that I urge myself to keep reading is not headed in the right direction.
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A very enjoyable historical mystery with characters worthy of an Agatha Christie novel. The year is 1900  and Margaret Murray is a lecturer in archaeology at University College London, one of few women in academia in any field. When one of the women who attends the department's Friday public lectures is found dead in her rooms, the inspector in charge of the case declares suicide but the beat officer who found her (and who recognizes her because he also attends the Friday public lectures) suspects murder and brings Margaret Murray into the case. During her investigations, Emm Emm (as her students call her) meets and partners up with a retired Scotland Yard detective, as well as a former thief who now runs her favorite tea house. As the body count climbs, they must find the common thread to identify motive and murderer. Also like a good Agatha Christie novel, the ending was unexpected but completely logical. I look forward to book #2 in what looks to be a strong new series!
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Constable Adam Crawford doesn't believe that Helen committed suicide so he approaches Dr Margaret Murray (a real person!) to help figure out what truly happened to her student.  Turns out Helen had secrets and that her murder is only the start of an unusual case involving archeological finds and academic rivalries. It's an interesting and atmospheric read. I did a little more research on Murray- what a fascinating woman.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  I'm looking forward to the next one.
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1900, London, archaeologist, university, professor, ex-cop, murder, murder-investigation, historical-fiction, historical-figures, historical-research, history-and-culture, historical-setting, amateur-sleuth, sly-humor, class-consciousness, private-investigators*****

Professor Margaret Murray and Egyptologist Flinders-Petrie were real as is University College, London. The problems of class distinction and severe bias against women mitigated a little since then. The story is good whodunit fiction.
The publisher's blurb is a good hook, and I don't do spoilers, but I loved this fun read that has so many things that interest me (law enforcement, amateur sleuths, archaeology, sleuthing with due diligence) and even has a little romance going on between a university student and a constable. Awaiting the next in series!
I requested and received a free e-book copy from Severn House via NetGalley. Thank you!
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Many thanks to NetGalley and Severn House for this Advanced Reader Copy and the opportunity to review “Four Thousand Days.” All opinions and comments are my own.

First off, you should know that our “detective” is a real person.  As the book states, this is a “Margaret Murray mystery.”  Margaret Murray was (as the book’s biographical information and other checking will tell you), a well-regarded archeologist at the end of the 19thth century.  She is our sleuth in this book.  And sleuth she does, to find a killer, ultimately, of three people.

That’s the case.  Done and dusted.  But getting there takes a while, and when you find out what the “point” of that quest is, what the young woman that starts everything off dies for, and what the killer kills for – and what Margaret does with what she finds, well, you might be as disappointed as I was with “that” ending.  

There are a lot of other real people in this book, people like Inspector Edmund Reid, who plays a big part in this investigation, William Booth, who founded the Salvation Army.  Even Rudyard Kipling, who steps in a for a moment.  M.J. Trow uses them all to move along this story.  You may like that our author does this, you may not.  Up to you.

There’s a big finish, with Margaret confronting the killer.  The case is wrapped up.   And readers find out what the title means.  I enjoyed “Four Thousand Days” for a well-constructed story, but didn’t enjoy that finish and certainly didn’t enjoy the modern anachronisms peppered through it.
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October 1900
Constable Adam Crawford enjoys attending the public lectures at University College, and on discovering the body of Alice Groves in her rooms he knows that she really is student Helen Richardson. But is she, and why was she killed. Dr Murray is approached to help, and evidence leads her to Herne Bay where she meets ex-Detective Reid. Soon he also discovers a body of an archaeological student. But the murders don’t stop there.
Crawford, Reid and Murray investigate while Inspector Blunt looks for the quickest solution.
An entertaining and well-written historical mystery with its cast of likeable and varied characters. A good start to a new series.
An ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This turned out to be one of my top five reads this past year.  And I read almost a book a day!  I especially enjoy Victorian era mysteries so I knew right away that this would be in my sweet spot.  What made it especially enjoyable was the writing and the characterizations of all the minor characters.  I had a bit of a suspicion as to what might be the archeological finding that was the cause of the murders, but I wasn’t able to figure out who the murderer was and what connected up all the victims.

Apparently, this is going to be the first in a series starring the archeology professor, Margaret Murray.  Then, following up on the author’s note, I learned that she was a real person.  I fell down a rabbit hole reading about her writings on the European witch trials and her theory of an early witch cult that became the foundation for the Wiccans.  Wow!  I will definitely be looking out for more books in this series!

I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book that I received from Netgalley; however, the opinions are my own and I did not receive any compensation for my review.
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I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley.

This wasn't really for me. There were too many characters to keep on top of - students, lecturers, police officers, characters with more than one alias, stuffed owls etc etc. It was quite a 'cosy' mystery, with a tone that grated on me and was very sexist and dated. I appreciate that this was set in 1900, but it wasn't written then! I'm not entirely clear why the male victim had to die and I find it very hard to believe that Margaret would have done what she did to the explosive secret document at the end - it would go against all her training and beliefs.
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Again, MJ Trow has taken on a real-life character and posited them front and centre as an amateur detective. He did this successfully with the poet and raconteur Christopher Marlowe and again with the poet Chaucer, so it will be very interesting to see how this series featuring archaeologist Margaret Murray develops.

As mentioned, Dr Margaret Murray really did exist and was associated with University College in London where she began her studies in Egyptology under the guidance of William Flinders Petrie in 1894 - she was 30 years old. She began her teaching career two years later, which is where we find her in 1900 when our story begins.

Margaret is approached to investigate when the body of one of her "students" is discovered. Prevailing police attitudes towards this young girl are draconian by our modern sensibilities, where women of an independent disposition are considered whores. Even the fact that there are female students attending the College are frowned upon by the ranks of male misogyny among both teaching staff and students.

One has to remember than England in 1900 was still under the reign of Queen Victoria (d.1901), the Boer War was still ongoing (1899–1902), and the scare of the Ripper murders was still fresh in peoples' minds (1888).

Trow weaves a tale that traverses the halls of education to the slums of London and back again. The narrative is engaging and easy to follow whilst the character of Murray herself put me in mind of another formidable late-to-career Margaret, the actress Margaret Rutherford.
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