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Product Details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Tyger Books (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0956517056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956517050
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,328,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Miracle Inspector is one of the few novels that everyone should read, it's a powerful novel that's masterfully written and subtly complex." SciFi and Fantasy Books

Helen Smith crafts a story like she's the British lovechild of" Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick, only with a feminist slant." Journal of Always Reviews

"A beautifully written, and almost unbearably sad, depiction of a society's downfall." All-Consuming Books

From the Author

My favorite dystopian novels are Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and The Children of Men by P D James (which was made into one of my favorite dystopian films, Children of Men, by Alfonso Cuarón).

The Miracle Inspector is a blackly comic dystopian novel inspired by my time spent volunteering as a mentor for exiled writers in London through British charity Freedom from Torture.

Rather than try to tell the stories of the people I met, I wondered what it would be like if I had to flee from London without money or possessions. How would I escape? What kind of reception would I get if I arrived somewhere without money or possessions, with little understanding of the culture? How would I know who to trust? That was my starting point. I hope people will finish the book asking some of the questions I started with.

About the Characters
As I sat down to write, I had this image of a man and a woman sitting in their kitchen at breakfast time, unable to communicate--as if this was the 1950s and they had been locked into a stifling marriage for thirty years.  But then it would become clear that they were very young --in their early twenties--and that the setting was a nightmarish future in which women have been stripped of many of the rights and benefits that we take for granted in modern society, and they have to be cautious about what they say, even in their own homes.

The young couple are called Lucas and Angela. I wanted the first half of the book to be Lucas's story and for Angela to emerge more strongly in the second half as she takes responsibility for her life and starts to find her voice. I had a good idea of how the story would unfold before I sat down to plot it.  I wanted this young couple to try to flee London and for everything to go wrong.

If that sounds a bit heavy, I ought to say that although it's not as frivolous as my two earlier books, Alison Wonderland and Being Light, there's plenty of humor in The Miracle Inspector. I hope readers will enjoy it, despite the moments of sadness.

More About the Author

Helen Smith is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, The Crime Writers Association and English PEN. She traveled the world when her daughter was small, doing all sorts of strange jobs to support them both -- from cleaning motels to working as a magician's assistant -- before returning to live in London where she wrote her first novel. She's the author of Alison Wonderland, Being Light, The Miracle Inspector and the Emily Castles mystery series as well as children's books, poetry and plays.

Helen Smith's books have reached number one on Amazon's bestseller lists in the US, UK, Canada and Germany. Her first book, Alison Wonderland, was one of Amazon Publishing's top five bestselling books when it was launched in the US in 2011. In July 2013, following the publication of Invitation to Die, Helen Smith reached the top spot as "America's most popular mystery author" on Amazon. Her books have been praised in The Times, The Times Literary Supplement, the Guardian, Time Out and Wired.com. They have appeared on "best books of the year" lists in For Books' Sake, The Cult Den, The Independent and the Guardian.

Helen Smith has been invited to read at literary events and festivals in London and New York and points in between - including, most recently, a cruise ship en route to California via the Suez Canal. Her work has been read or performed at the National Theatre, The Royal Festival Hall, the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, Amnesty International's Headquarters, The Edinburgh Festival and The University of London. She's a Literary Death Match champion and the recipient of an Arts Council of England award. Her work has been optioned by the BBC. She's amazing! Please buy her books.

"Smith is gin-and-tonic funny." Booklist

She blogs at: http://www.emperorsclothes.co.uk. Sign up here to receive an email alert when a new book is published: http://bit.ly/U5KAF0

Customer Reviews

The pacing was nice... not too slow or too long.
Ray
It's not just another story, this one digs deep into wounds and in the end makes you want to read more.
Common Sense
I loved the dry witty humor of it and the dialogue between characters kept the story moving.
D. Zerbe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Books Reviewed on November 24, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Helen Smith's The Miracle Inspector represents British humor at its best. Set in a near-future London, this is the story of a minor government official, Lucas, and his wife Angela. In Smith's future London, a written constitution guarantees people the right to believe in miracles. When someone believes or merely claims that Jesus' face has been burned into toast or that their potato is the spitting image of the Virgin Mary, Lucas investigates and officially proclaims for the government whether a miracle has occurred or not.

London's government is so repressive in this tale that women are not allowed out of the house unless visiting relatives. I was worried at first that I was reading yet another dystopian novel where a fascist government has inexplicably taken over and imposed random religious and moral laws. Smith, however, defies the ordinary conventions of the genre. She takes the foibles of our own time and exaggerates them, drawing clear lines for the reader of how our fears taken to the extreme can lead to extreme measures. In a brilliant twist on conventions, women are not allowed out of the house in Smith's London due to the fear that they will be sexually harassed or assaulted.

Most of the story is told through the minds of Lucas and Angela as they seek to escape London for what they imagine to be a much better Cornwall. The random nature of Lucas' thoughts keep the reader entertained throughout. Smith manages to keep the reader laughing at Lucas, if not always with him, in a way that does not seem cruel. A less-talented writer would turn readers off, but Smith deftly writes Lucas as both pathetic and someone readers can relate to.

Angela is a simple and charming woman.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By anaavu on October 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
3.5 stars :)

I'm finding it near impossible to figure out exactly what my feelings are at the end of this book. There's been some good parts and some not-so-fun parts.... but the complicatedness should be expected. It's such a unique combination of genres - it's a dystopian novel, which as you know I read as much of as I can. Yet I've never, ever read anything quite like it. Which makes me wonder if the parts I didn't love is just because it's so different. First off, just how many dystopian books have you read in the past two years that were adult books? Still thinking? I thought so. If you have read some, how many were literary tales that reminded you of Hemingway? Mhmm, I told you it was unique.

The scary thing about this novel is the world is so absolutely believable. The author took some of our actual fears today and envisioned a future where the government (that stays very much in the shadows) uses these fears against its people to control them. People were afraid of terrorists-that was used to enforce border controls and walls and barriers to keep out (or keep in?). Fear of rapists and pedophiles are hugely exaggerated and in this future London, women are forced to sit at home and cook and clean for their husbands, and can only meet approved relatives. Lucas doesn't abuse his wife, but it is a common enough practice that no one blinks an eye when the Head of Security uses his cameras to spy on his wife in the shower.

The Miracle Inspector isn't something you read for entertainment. It's something you read when you are in the contemplative mood, when you can handle the depth of despair and fear of this book. There is no sassy young protagonist to provide the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Steve Anderson on November 16, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If Patricia Highsmith wrote dystopian fiction but had more of a sense of humor, it might be something like The Miracle Inspector. The book opens in an England of the near future that's been partitioned and in decay. London proper seems to have the worst of it, walled off and Taliban-like in its social clampdown. Women can't leave the home. The Arts are off-limits. Men work meaningless bureaucratic jobs that only serve the faceless authority that keeps them all locked in, both socially and interpersonally. The book focuses on one couple, Lucas and Angela, who think they once loved each other but are really just strangers passing each other constantly. An aging and legendary underground poet, Jesmond, fuels their secret needs to escape to that sought-after heaven, Cornwall. They're all not especially likable, but they're always a little more so than those around them, chipping away at them. It works.

The saddest part might not be that they can't have what they want, but rather that they don't truly know what they'd want if they could have it.

I mention Patricia Highsmith because Smith deftly works in the dark urges and fears of Lucas, Angela and others in a way that only psychological mystery and espionage writers like Highsmith and Graham Greene do well. The story manages to remind of 1984, Brazil, Children of Men, The Road and other noirish dystopian tales yet manages to be original, partially through the dark and often subtle humor. Yes, I'm mixing films with books here, because I think this would make a good film script.

If I could give this 4.5 stars I would, but we have to choose between 4s and 5s. I would have like to have had more setup and background about how England became this way, but that's also a product of me liking the story enough.

I'll be reading more from this author.
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