FORGOTTEN BOOKS: THE DETECTIVE WORE SILK DRAWERS!
When Peter Lovesey’s first Victorian detective series featuring Sergeant Cribb – he of agile mind and bushy side burns – and his hale and hearty sidekick, Thackery were originally published, they verged on creating a new form of English cozy – forgoing old lady or titled detectives in favor of middle class long suffering constables.
Lovesey lovingly recreated the Victorian England of the masses while sharply focusing on specific, yet unexplored, Victoria pursuits – marathon walkers, bare knuckle – raw ‘uns – pugilists, etc.
Since I love a good boxing novel, I’ve chosen the second Cribb novel, The Detective Wore Silk Drawers, for this post because of its brilliant recreation of Victorian prize fighting.
Bare knuckle boxing (no gloves, no rounds, spiked shoes for stomping, throws o.k., etc.) was forbidden by law in late Victorian England, but Cribb discovers evidence that it continues in secret, confirmed by a headless body in the Thames whose hands were pickled for fighting. A young constable called Henry Jago is chosen to infiltrate the gang and he has to submit to a rigorous program of purging, pickling, and training. With lives on the line, it is up to Cribb to intervene at the crucial time to prevent young Jago from being battered to death.
THE DETECTIVE WORE SILK DRAWERS
The second Sergeant Cribb mystery is set in the world of Victorian bare-fisted pugilism—an illegal sport. Constable Jago is sent, undercover, to Radstock Hall by Sergeant Cribb, who suspects that when fighters who train there lose, they are murdered.
Cribb and Thackery rate as high with me as Lovesey’s later, more acclaimed, detective creation Peter Diamond. All of the Cribb books, along with their pitch perfect television adaption are worthy of your time.