I did not have high expectations for this book (received from Netgalley for an honest review, with thanks), I have to admit. But I had already picked up the previous in the series as an Amazon deal, and I thought I’d try this. It sounded promising: in the aftermath of a bombing in London comes investigation into disappearances at a women’s “rest home”.
I love period mysteries – except when I hate them. The writing and setting have to be exceptional in order for one to stand out. There have been an awful lot of semi-cozy mysteries set in this rough time period featuring plucky young women who are either nobly not working or working very pluckily in jobs women don’t commonly do. I can’t criticize the fact that Miss Felicity Young of turn of the century London is a coroner, as she’s based on the author’s ancestor. Improbable as I might find her position, it’s based in fact, and that’s that.
What I really dragged my heels over, which for all I know is also based in fact but which I also found improbable, was Constable Singh. I find it difficult to swallow that at this time period (1913, based on events) an Indian gentleman complete unto turban would even be able to secure a place in the police department, much less be given any level of command: “Singh’s in charge with Hensman as his assistant.” To be sure, he does not have an easy time of it; my hunch, though, is that it would have been much worse, if it was at all.
The highly irregular relationship between Felicity and CDI Pike …I get it, and I’m okay with it. But not when his daughter is in the house. For these two to leave her practicing music on the ground floor and go up to her bedroom and lock the door and … no. This is not acceptable. This is a recipe for disaster, is what it is.
Here be spoilers for a historical event – skip the next paragraph if you want to be surprised by what happens at the Epsom Derby in 1913.
The incident of Emily Wilding Davison’s suicide came up in the book, and steam began to puff gently from my ears. I was at a full boil by the end of the chapter. There is, and was in the book, apparently some dissent over whether she intended to let herself be run over by the king’s horse that day, or whether it was supposed to be just a “brave” demonstration. Apparently, according to the Guardian, she was trying to tie a suffragette banner to the horse’s bridle. (http://www.theguardian.com/society/20…) What a moron. A racehorse running at full speed. I’m sorry, if you’re stupid enough to walk out onto a racetrack filled with steel-shod horses running at 35 mph+, you’re asking for what happens to you. It’s like committing suicide by cop, or stepping in front of a train – I don’t care what your motivation is, forcing someone else to be the means of your death is one of the more heinous things any human being can do. Kill yourself in some spectacular manner – more power to you. Involve others, or destroy property? You’ve lost any sympathy I might have ever had. For this woman to take the risk of not only killing herself but killing the jockey, the horse, and any jockeys and horses coming up behind (there were at least two, from the pictures)… was this supposed to inspire support for the Cause? How could they think that it would inspire anything but utter loathing?
The horse did a somersault, on top of the jockey. I am not trying to be amusing when I point out that horses are not meant to somersault. Nor do jockeys benefit from being landed on by horses.
Take my reaction to this event, and multiply it by a factor of 10 to get my reaction to setting a bomb to make a point. This isn’t activism. This is terrorism. It’s perfectly black and white in my mind: like riots after a police shooting or crashing a plane into a building, this is unconscionable. No one person or group of people has any right to destroy the lives or livelihoods of anyone else, for any reason. Lovely, fine, you’re setting your explosive device in a place you expect to be deserted. That’s peachy. However, the … ladies placing the bomb seem to have neglected to actually watch the location, or do any research, because they managed to kill a night watchman. In addition, they managed to mangle dozens of bodies waiting in that building for burial – forcing dozens of families to endure a hideous experience very shortly after the already awful experience of losing a loved one.
I hope this book wasn’t intended in any way to inspire respect and pride for the suffragette movement. In me it inspired loathing and contempt, and made me ashamed for my gender. I think my disgust for the idiots setting the bomb in this book became diluted as events flowed on and went in another direction. Writing this has brought that disgust back to full strength. I want them in prison, and then hanged. Spoiler: this is not likely to happen. The idea that our main character’s sister is one of the idiots setting said bomb – and that she’s ever so sorry about the death but really it’s all for a good cause and the reader will certainly understand and dear Dody will cover it all up and make every use of her influence on her detective … No.
The rest of the story that arises from the sister’s involvement in the bombing and her installation in a women’s “rest home”, where nefarious doings are being done, feels like a whole different book.
Comma splices bug me to a possibly unreasonable degree. “Indeed, she had not chosen autopsy surgery, more like it had chosen her.” Stop that. There’s no earthly reason that couldn’t be two sentences – or one, joined with a semi-colon or a dash. “The law was like a pendulum, sometimes she swung towards the truth and sometimes she swung in the opposite direction.” STOP IT.
I was going to say that I didn’t love or hate this book, and that I previously picked up one of the other books in the series in an Amazon cheapie deal and would consider getting the rest if they were put under my nose in the same way. This has, unfortunately, been one of those times when thinking about the book and stitching my notes and my thoughts on those notes into a review has made me reevaluate my rating. My irritation (and anger) with the characters (from fornication in very nearly the presence of one’s daughter to blowing people up in order to get the vote), and my irritation with what I can only see as sloppy writing, have come to outweigh any liking I had for the book. I will probably, eventually, read the other book I unfortunately bought; I don’t see myself buying any more.
There’s one line I made a note of, and I’m still curious: “After blowing on her gloves to provide extra grip…” How does blowing on one’s gloves help with grip?