This book was cheap or free on Amazon, and it sounded like everything I would enjoy: a nice British-style mystery set in 1809 featuring Bow Street runners and a locked room, with a whiff of the supernatural – perfect.
Except it was awful.
I’ve said, in some form or other, and will likely say again that when a writer whose work I enjoy says something that doesn’t feel quite right, I believe it – but when a writer whose work I dislike says something that doesn’t feel right, I will get online and do the research to, if possible, prove I’m right and they’re wrong so there. It unfortunately didn’t take long for me to get to the point that when Karen Charlton had a character say “There’s no cake with candles fer me at a year’s end”, I got to digging. (As best I can find, it’s an anachronism – and, if nothing else, someone in this character’s place and position probably couldn’t afford it even it was common.)
The two so-remarkable detectives at the heart of the story, Detective Stephen Lavender and Constable Woods, are ridiculous. Their investigative skills are remarkable only for their absence – an example being that they decide to “stake out the grave of Baxter Carnaby from midnight”. Fine; but why not before? And of course early on they miss the bad guy and basically screw up altogether. It doesn’t help that so-wonderful Detective Lavender is – as even his faithful Constable says – “mooning around after ” a chance-met so-exotic Spanish woman widow – or is she?? He is so distracted that I wanted to see him come up on charges. The “clever idea” used to get into/out of a room which was barred on the inside was ludicrous; it would have left signs that even the dumbest and most sloppy maid or investigator would have remarked upon, even if they didn’t know what they meant.
Lavender muses about “the moments when he knew, for certain, that he could drag a criminal into the dock at the next assizes”, to which I responded “the moments when exactly the evidence you require appears as if by magic”. And my comment on “They shouted over and over again for Hamilton” was “ooo stealthy”, so it had to have been a situation in which yelling was inappropriate.
The badness of the writing was … manifold. There was punctuation abuse (particularly of commas), grammar maltreatment, and unintentional humor all throughout.
“He caught the glint of iron flint in Wood’s eyes” is just silly in at least three different directions.
Characters said “God’s strewth” – why? “Strewth” is supposed to be slang for “God’s truth”, so … that makes no sense.
“Woods shuffled uncomfortably on a hard–baked chair by the door.” How do you shuffle in a seated position, and how is a chair hard-baked?
And seriously, “orb” is a word which should never be used except in quoting Shakespeare.
I don’t have any memory of the context of this quote, but in my Kindle highlights I saved: “‘The Lord save us from loose fish!’ Mistress Norris exclaimed.” The note I made with it was “THAT is your response to proposed rapine?”
Not-exactly-wealthy characters ladle sugar into their tea like it was the 21st century – but sugar was still pretty darned expensive in 1809.
Someone burns old documents and carelessly doesn’t completely destroy one – something so clichéd it should come with a health warning.
I had an idea about what happened – not something I usually do with mysteries – and when the writer caught up to that idea, I grumbled some more in my Kindle notes – “that is nonsensical. My idea was better.”
“Her accented voice purred like silk” … How does one purr like silk?
Another thing I say all the time is that when I make a lot of highlights or notes on my Kindle, it means a book was either really good or really bad. Obviously, I made a lot of notes on this book.
Imagine my chagrin when I requested another book that sounded awfully good from Netgalley, only to realize – too late – that it was by the same author. I hate it when that happens.