Victorian Murder Mystery
On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE
I was looking forward to this book being published, and I loved it so much I want to give it six stars; I shall have to make do with five big shiny gold ones instead!
First, the basic plot. Dashing bounder Mark Hawksley is busy enticing the gullible moneyed of London into investing into his diamond mine. A pornography loving, wife betraying solicitor (the thin, grey haired Frederick Undershaft, marvellous name!) narrowly escapes being poisoned by some arsenic laden cakes. The sharp-witted, sexy and ambitious Belinda Kite takes up a position as ladies' companion to the dreary Grizelda Bulstrode, sister of 'bluff, no-nonsense northerner' Josiah.
The plot is expertly worked, with many threads and red herrings, though in some ways it actually comes second to the descriptive passages and crystal clear characterisation.
I love Carol Hedges' portrayal of atmosphere, from the chill of a Victorian London winter: "Wind batters the city, rattling the windows and inn-signs, whipping up the Thames into a white-capped rage".... "A foggy morning in London...the river an oozing stinking miasma of low-tide mud. Grimy pavements. No shade lighter than slate grey. Hoofbeats hollow in the fog" ...
....and her gift for conveying exactly what a character is like in just a sentence or two: "..a red mouth, determined chin and hair the colour of falling Autumn" (Belinda Kite, my favourite character!). Or "The young lady reminds Belinda of a watercolour painting done by someone who had not much colour but a lot of water, giving off the impression of not only being colourless, but rather damp." That was Grizelda Bulstrode, who, when eating breakfast "conveys tiny squares of buttered toast into her mouth with the cautious apprehension of one posting letters." Or the street urchins: "Average age in years: about eleven. Average age in cynicism and malevolent evil: about one hundred and thirty-five".
At the forefront of all crime solving is the Victorian version of Reagan and Carter of the Sweeney: Detectives Stride and Cully: "...whereas some people could say things in a cutting way, Stride could listen in a cutting way. Stride could make something sound stupid just by hearing it". Okay, no more quotes (apart from Stride's observation about many of the reports on his desk: "Most of this stuff isn't for reading, it's for having been written.") I highlighted so many terrific lines and passages; perhaps the best I can do is just to advise you to buy and read this immediately!
This is the third in the series, but they're all complete stand alones. There are references to events in the previous books but it's not necessary to read them first. This is my favourite of the three.
I read some passages several times to enjoy them all over again, there's not one single boring bit. It's so well researched, too; I wonder if Ms Hedges actually time-travelled to discover those dark, dangerous alleyways herself! Best way to read it? Sitting up in bed with lots of pillows, in a warm room with coffee, tea and possibly cakes, it's a delightfully 'cosy' book.
To sum up: a work of art :)
DIAMONDS & DUST by Carol Hedges reviewed HERE
HONOUR & OBEY by Carol Hedges reviewed HERE