on June 29, 2011
In late 19th Century London, Ira Adler is a former rent-boy, who is now the personal assistant (and kept boy) of Cain Goddard, a somewhat socially prominent citizen who has underworld ties. Goddard sends Ira to find a porcelain dog figurine, which supposedly contains a secret being used to blackmail him. Ira gets, then loses the trinket, and finds himself getting deeper involved in a widespread criminal enterprise involving smuggling and drugs, involving some people he knew in his hustling days. Eventually, Ira uncovers a truth that threatens his cushy position with Goddard, as he has to decide if it is worth his own self-respect.
I'm not usually into "period" novels, but I found this one to be unique and captivating. The author builds a credible plot through the actions of diverse, fully-nuanced characters, which keeps the reader interested. It was relatively easy to read, despite the fact that the street characters' dialogue was often listed in popular street slang, which was actually a plus in establishing their individuality and role in the story. Excellent first novel by a promising new author, which I give five stars out of five.
- Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
on November 17, 2013
n Victorian era London, former rent boy Ira Adler is living the high life as ‘secretary’ to Cain Goddard, also known as the as the Duke of Dorset Street, a notorious crime lord, although his activities are kept well away from the genteel house on York Street where he has brought Ira to live. In the two years since Goddard invited him into his home, the illiterate child of the streets and workhouses has learned to read and write, and speak like a gentleman.
While Goddard generally shields his young lover from most of the details of his business, there’s one delicate matter that he can only trust to Ira. It seems that someone is blackmailing Cain, threatening to expose his ‘unnatural tendencies’. To thwart the blackmailer, Cain asks Ira to retrieve a statue, a porcelain dog, containing the incriminating evidence. If he fails, Ira could well end up in prison along with his mentor.
Quite early on in “The Affair of the Porcelain Dog” it becomes clear that this is no ordinary homage to the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his creation, Sherlock Holmes. Firstly, we have a story told from the point of view of the criminal, with Goddard, a doctor in fact, taking on the role of Moriarty. And then there’s the name of the hero of the piece, Ira Adler, a bad boy from the streets, who is maybe not quite so bad as even he thinks.
Like many good mysteries, especially one in the vein of Holmes, this book take a while to come to a boil as all the threads of the plot weave together. It starts out quickly enough, but it does take some time to pick up the pace. However, while there is a nice, convoluted mystery here in the grand tradition, the real puzzle of the story is Ira himself. Will he find a way to stay with his lover and protector, living the comfortable life he has become accustomed to, or will he find that he has to compromise too much of himself and what he believes to stay?
on May 2, 2014
In the past month I have listened to 5 m/m audiobooks, and I've been disappointed by each one. They all basically amounted to thinly veiled bodice rippers. The Affair of the Porcelain Dog was a very pleasant change. The m/m aspect was very much there, but the entire point of the story wasn't to get the protagonist into bed, and then have as much sex as possible. It's a very good period mystery with some fun Sherlock Holmes references. Also, one of the most important points, the reader was very good. Sometimes a story is fantastic, but the reader just butchers it. This is not the case here.
on March 2, 2014
This review will be filled with rambliness.
I don't know why I took so long to read this. I'm not sure I can explain why it pulled me in so much. The scattered Sherlock references? Starting with the MC's name, Ira Adler? His bittersweet relationship with criminal underlord Dr. Goddard? The web of secrets and intrigue that Ira finds himself stumbling into and which had me absorbed in reading for the entire day? I was just hooked. I loved that I was expecting this to be just a simple, typical MM historical read, but it turned out to be anything but. My heart and my feelings twisted at the ending, I both loved and hated it. My impressions of the MCs kept changing back and forth. I can't really promise you'll get wrapped up or even be any impressed by this book as I did, but I'm rating this 5 stars for pure enjoyment factor. I don't know, it just got my head spinning. I thought it was sort of amazing, despite a lot of niggles I had with the MC by the end. I'm now a huge fan of this writer. Thank god the sequel just came out, because I can't wait to get my hands on it.
on April 24, 2013
I'm a lover of audiobooks. Even if I were able to physically read on the bus - I can't, it makes me feel ill - there's still something so incredibly wonderful about the spoken word, and the experience of listening to a great story being told. Usually, I do this to make the time pass by on the long trek to and from work, or when I'm doing something tedious like the laundry or dishes. For "The Affair of the Porcelain Dog" I was instead scurrying around, trying to find any excuse to be able to keep listening, and even wearing my ear-buds while I did routine stuff all the way to the moment I had to open the doors for the day.
I listened on my break. I listened on my lunch. I listened in the bath. I even got up early on the day of my closing shift so I'd have the two full hours of time I needed to finish the book before my work shift started.
In short? Jess Faraday's "The Affair of the Porcelain Dog" was the best audiobook experience I've had in years. There are a few sides to that experience.
One, the writing was so completely engaging that I was happily drawn into the narrative from step one. The setting - a Holmes-era tale in London at it's most coal-caked and financially stratified, "The Affair of the Porcelain Dog" is also Holmes-esque in its execution, pulling you into a mystery from the opening that is as steeped in the time and place and culture as it is in the richly drawn characters. The main voice, Ira Adler, is such a charming character even when he's being selfish or spoiled that I was smitten instantly. An orphan and former rent-boy, Ira is living in luxury now at the beck and call - and bed - of Cain Goddard, who despite his genteel appearance is in fact a crime lord making most of his living off the legal opium trade. Ira, no slouch in the street arts of lock picking, pick pocketing, and capable of thieving with the best of them, is tasked by Goddard to recover the titular piece of artwork, which is both ugly and apparently contains a secret that could ruin Goddard, and bring Ira's comfortable new life to an end. Of course, in a mystery as tightly drawn as this one, there are far more players than that - including the wonderfully written Timothy Lazarus, a giving clinic doctor who is after the same object d'art for his own friend - and Goddard's rival. That Lazarus and Adler have a romantic entanglement in the past just adds to the joy in their interactions.
Two, the performance. Oh how Philip Battley narrated the heck out of this book! He took Jess Faraday's amazing story and put such an incredible performance behind his reading. Every accent and every tone just burst with verisimilitude. It kills me that the search on his name over on audible only showed one other audiobook. I sincerely hope there's more from him.
Third - and last - there weren't compromises in the historical setting including gay characters. I rarely read historical gay fiction because so often the gay stuff sort of slides unnoticed among the rest of the tale. Somehow everyone the characters meet are happy and open-minded folks who understand these guys aren't evil (despite religion, law, and everything about the current culture saying they are). That these men are gay is a huge factor to the story, but not in a way that doesn't ring true.
Okay. I'm moving past reviewing and into gushing. Just trust me on this one. Read it or listen to it - I'm totally going to suggest you listen to it if you're at all an audiobook lover - and rejoice in the fact that there's a sequel, Turnbull House, on its way.
on September 21, 2012
The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, Jess Faraday's auspicious debut novel, is set in London in 1889--Oscar Wilde's world.
Dr. Cain Goddard is a night lecturer at King's College, hoping to become a professor. He sponsors and takes part in an athletic group known as the "Fighting Arts Society." He's also, secretly, a powerful crime lord known as the Duke of Dorset Street who owns brothels, gambling houses, and opium dens. A blackmailer who suddenly surfaces has evidence hidden in a porcelain dog that could send Goddard, despite his connections to the police and courts, to prison for sodomy.
Ira Adler is the twenty-five-year-old former rent boy Goddard rescued from the streets and took into his magnificent house as his kept boy two years previously.This is the way Goddard explains the situation: "It may be easier to love a poor man than a rich one, but life is much more comfortable with a rich one." In his former existence as a petty thief as well as a rent boy, Adler became an expert at picking locks. Goddard, having discovered the location of the porcelain dog, sends Adler to steal it. Goddard's enemy, Andrew St. Andrews, a detective, also wants the dog. A scandal some years ago got both Goddard and St. Andrews expelled from Cambridge.
A reader might expect Goddard and Adler to be entirely cold and calculating. Theirs is a world where ill-gotten money pays for sex. I discovered, to my delight, that they, as well as the other major characters in the novel, are many-layered, complicated human beings. Goddard is obviously in love with Adler. He educates him in order to pass him off as his personal secretary, but he also does it as an act of kindness. Adler isn't certain that what he feels for Goddard is love, but he genuinely admires the intellectual and physically fit crime lord and returns his affection.
The main conflict arises when Adler, in his frantic attempt to thwart the blackmailer, discovers Goddard's connection to a criminal activity far darker than prostitution, gambling, and selling opium. Adler questions whether he can remain the lavishly kept boy of the Duke of Dorset Street even if he does love him. But what kind of a life can Adler have if he leaves Goddard?
I greatly enjoyed reading The Affair of the Porcelain Dog. Every sentence made me believe I was in late Victorian London. The writing often took my breath away: "Truth be told, I [Adler] should rather have liked for someone to take a peek at the rash on my bollocks. An itch might have only been an itch in Goddard's world, but where I came from it was often a harbinger of something worse. I'd not strayed from Goddard's bed since he took me in. Of course, many a pestilence could sleep for years before thrusting its head through the floor of a perfectly serviceable domestic arrangement." (It turns out there's a reason other than a sexually transmitted disease for Adler's itchy "bollocks.")
Again: "Nurse Brand didn't take kindly to interlopers upsetting the apple cart. When Goddard had upset mine, Lazarus's had tipped clean over, in turn causing the nurse's own steady cart to throw a wheel." And again: "But I was not in any shape to ask questions, or even to listen to that quiet voice of better judgment reminding me the worst things happen to whores foolish enough to accompany gentlemen home."
A most pleasing surprise in Faraday's epilogue was the icing on the cake for me. The novel is a mystery, LGBTQ fiction, historical fiction--and a great deal more.
(As originally reviewed on Rainbow Book Reviews. Please visit Rainbow Book Reviews for other reviews that may be of interest.)
on January 7, 2012
If you are a fan of Victorian-era mysteries (e.g. Sarah Waters, "Fingersmith") you will love "The Affair of the Porcelain Dog." Every time I thought I solved the crime in my head, the story took another sharp left hand turn and I was back to collecting clues and trying to figure out the many different and intriguing layers of this mystery. Ira Adler, the main character, is equally as interesting to follow as he emotionally matures throughout the novel. This was a great read, and I would recommend it to anyone.
on April 10, 2012
I have to admit that the idea of a historical mystery made me a little leery. I was worried that the dialogue would be stilted, or that the plot would get bogged down by historical detail. So much for my pre-conceived notions.
This is a really well-plotted novel that engaged me from start to finish (and never felt like a history lesson). The writing is crisp and precise, the characters are nicely dimensional, and Ira Adler is a great narrator with a distinctive voice. I hope this is the start of a series.
on September 25, 2014
I enjoyed this book, but as another reviewer wrote, this is not a romance. I think it was well written, but for me sex scenes also set the stage for intimacy or lack thereof between the MCs. I liked all the characters, but I guess the bottom line is I'm taking off one star because I would have liked it better with a more intimate component because it would have played with my emotions more.
on March 21, 2013
This is most definitely not a romance, and I found I didn't miss it at all. The mystery to this story is compelling, and well developed. Although the book was slow building, I found myself drawn into the world of the characters, and was fascinated by their relationships, and interactions. The characters themselves are well developed, and richly nuanced. I like how well set in the time period this book feels, and how it doesn't fall victim to a rosy or romanticized view of the past without becoming some sort of melodrama, or morality tale. Watching Ira grow and change throughout the story was a pleasure, and even though this book wasn't an easy read I ended up truly enjoying it.