I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up The Mannequin House by R.N Morris. I knew it would be a crime thriller, the shadowy figure on the front of the book gave that way, but for some reason I thought it would involve puppets. It turned out that the Mannequins in the book were actually clothes models who are employed in the House of Blackley Department Store.
The book is set in London in 1914. This is a time of class distinctions, where the upper and middle class had big houses and servants. The House of Blackley is a Kensington department store run by Benjamin Blackley, who is determined to get the best patrons though his doors. As he is about to put on a fashion show for an important patron it is discovered that one of the mannequins is missing. This leads to the gruesome discovery that she is in fact dead, in her bedroom in the house she shares with the other mannequins. Even more bizarrely her bedroom door is locked from the inside and the only suspect is a small monkey wearing a fez found inside.
Silas Quinn and his team from the Special Crimes Department are called into investigate and need to dig deeply to find out exactly what has been going on. Silas Quinn will not stop until he finds the truth. He is under pressure to wrap up the case, but will not settle for a simpler explanation. He is an interesting character, rugged and with his own way of doing things but a sense of uncertainty. As he investigates the gloss surrounding the House of Blackley is stripped aside and we see the true nature and the seedier side of the owner Benjamin Blackley.
The book is absorbing. It is a fascinating portrayal of a different era and I kept turning the pages until I found out the ending. The characters are fascinating and the interaction between them really brings them to life in a unique way. I really enjoyed reading the book and I will be interested to see what mysteries Silas Quinn faces in the future.