After ending her fabulous “Rockton” series, prolific author Kelley Armstrong presents us with “A Rip Through Time,” a mystery boasting a different twist. Instead of exploring a unique location, we follow a modern police detective who is flung back in time to the Victorian Era, into the body of a housemaid in Edinburgh, Scotland. When Vancouver detective Mallory Atkinson is out jogging in Edinburgh while taking a break from visiting her dying grandmother, she is brutally attacked. She wakes up days later; but in what seems like a never-ending nightmare, she realizes that she is in the body of a maid and that she has been somehow transported back 150 years in time.
Catriona, the much younger housemaid, is far from an exemplary character. She steals from her employers, leads men on, and would sell out her best friend for a few shillings. She, too, was being brutally attacked when Mallory “intruded” in her body. Mallory can only assume that her own body has been co-opted by Catriona. Fortunately for Mallory, Catriona is the housemaid in a home where two quite unusual adults reside.
Dr. Duncan Gray is a man of color, and he is an undertaker and medical examiner. He is extremely interested in forensics, and dead bodies are regularly brought to his workplace, inside his home, for him to examine. Needless to say, Mallory-turned-Catriona becomes surprisingly good at assisting him in such examinations. Her change of personality and her inability to remember basic things (like how to wake up without an alarm clock and how to start a fire), is blamed on the blow to her head during her attack.
She is desperate to return to her own time, but as the days pass, she comes to understand that she needs to get adjusted to life in Victorian Edinburgh, at least for a while. Trying to not spill modern forensic secrets while keeping her own secret proves difficult. Mallory also must deal with the many people who truly dislike Catriona because she was/is a pretty awful person. There’s also the would-be murderer, who failed in his first attempt to kill Catriona and might just try again.
The action is nonstop, and the trip to the past is fascinating. Armstrong’s diverse cast of characters is seen through both Mallory’s modern eyes and Victorian uptight mores. She makes a point of showing how, in some ways, class strictures and the oppressing cloak of poverty have continued to keep the poor in a disadvantaged state — just as it’s been throughout history. The novel is thought-provoking but also a really good mystery. Pure Kelley Armstrong—fabulous likable and diverse characters, gripping action, and a fascinating mystery or two to solve.
Please note: An abbreviated version of this review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.