Mel Bradshaw studied English and philosophy at the University of Toronto and continued at Oxford. His first novel, Death in the Age of Steam, was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award for best first crime novel. He lives in Toronto.
Death in the Age of Steam
Winner of the 2004 ForeWord Book of the Year Award
Toronto in 1856 is industrializing with little time for scruple or sentiment. When Reform politician William Sheridan dies suddenly and his daughter Theresa vanishes, only one man persists in asking questions. A former suitor of Theresa’s, bank cashier Isaac Harris has never managed to forget her, despite her marriage to another man. Thrust into the role of amateur detective, he must now struggle with the demands of his job and the shortcomings of the fledgling city police. He also faces the hostility of Theresa’s powerful husband, a steamboat and railway magnate. Harris’s search takes a grisly turn when, in a valley outside of town, he finds human remains decked in traces of Theresa’s finery. If she is dead, who is responsible? And who cares to find out, apart from the man who wooed her too timidly and now would do anything to make up for it? Death in the Age of Steam whirls the reader through a richly realized Victorian landscape, from Niagara Falls to Montreal and north as far as the shores of Lake Superior. It’s a world at once near and exotic, a world of noise and smoke and churning pistons, but a world still very familiar to denizens of the 21st century.
This is a delightful, romance, mystery, and detective story, full of history and brimming with intelligent and superbly-rendered characters.
Bradshaw had achieved a particular kind of literary feat. He has written a 19th-century novel, set in Toronto in 1856. This is not merely a detective story in period dress, but a carefully constructed and exquisitely sketched novel of manners.
...Death in the Age of Steam...offers respide from an overwrought milieu.
Mel Bradshaw has created a novel that is very hard to put down. While it is extremely linear in structure, it is peopled by interesting characters utterly unlike English or American characters of the same era. Bradshaw's world is completely Canadian, with an assumption that the reader knows at least a little Canadian history.
...exceptionally good first novel...Bradshaw keeps the reader firmly on the pavement with sights, sounds, smells and vivid descriptions of Victorian Canadian life.
Mel Bradshaw may have set his mystery in a time when the word 'detective' was still a neologism, but the Canada he so lovingly re-creates is far from unrecognizable. From Toronto's Bay St. to Kingston's penitentiary and Montreal's Bonsecours market, from the latest fashions of the era to the political clashes that defined it, the world resurrected by Bradshaw is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
It's a wonderful read. It's an easy read. You can get right into the characters and the scenes.
This book, not to be devoured in one sitting, is meatier than many mysteries...with psychological depth and an acute sense of time and place, this book calls for slow savoring.
This is a quest novel, the journeys and trials of a knight-errant in search of his lady fiar. It is written in an unhurried style, the sentences rolling over each other, like the majestice St. Lawrence River itself, along whose shores, and those of Lake Ontario, much of the action takes place.