- File Size: 1579 KB
- Print Length: 285 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1943404089
- Publisher: Old Salt Press LLC; 1 edition (November 1, 2016)
- Publication Date: November 1, 2016
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01M3Y525Z
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,102 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Print List Price:||$12.50|
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Britannia's Amazon: The Dawlish Chronicles Volume 5 April - August 1882 Kindle Edition
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|Length: 285 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Doing charity as an officer’s wife, Florence finds herself resolving a scandal that threatens the family of her dearest friend and benefactor that is also intertwined with the international sex trafficking of orphans (a delicate topic handled appropriately in this book). But to seek justice and restitution she must walk like a choir director on a tight rope. For her allies, whom she must keep apart like fire, matches, and dynamite, include a Russian spy she faced on the battlefield while doing charity work in the Balkans, a dangerous international criminal with whom, she pulled off an intrigue in Cuba, and an American newspaper woman whose job includes publishing tales of scandal. Sherlock Holmes lovers will enjoy the outcome of this tale that never loses the salty touch of the ocean. I present the author with a well-deserved toast.
And heavy lifting it is. Nicholas's enemies are usually well defined and frequently shoot at him to make their intentions clear. Not so, here. Florence's enemies are not obvious, and even when they emerge from the murk are often protected by the oppressive limits of the British class structure. In what may seem incredible to modern readers, unless regular watchers of Masterpiece Theater, upper class Britons, particularly those of the aristocracy, could get away with an astonishing array of heinous acts ranging from mistreatment of employees all the way to murder most foul. All of which figure in Florence's struggles through the book. Add in the fact that she is a woman in what is very definitely a man's world and you have some idea of just how intense that struggle was.
Without giving away too much of the plot there are two threads, partially intertwined, that dominate the book. First is a ring of upperclass homosexual males preying upon, and having an organized supply of, young men. It doesn't take a great deal of sleuthing to uncover that this part of the book is based on the notorious Cleveland Street scandal, exposed in 1889. Vanner has moved the event back to 1882 to remain within his chronology. The second thread, the roots of which are not immediately obvious, is the organized procurement system for both young men, and young women, to serve as supply for houses of ill repute for both genders. Suffice to say there is a great deal of chicanery and cover up involved, somewhat complicated by the activities of a crusading newspaper editor who may not be all that he seems. Which brings up a sideline to the main themes of the book, the horrific conditions, and consequences thereof, involved in the production of white phosphorous matches used in lighting cigars and pipes. It was ugly, and took far too long to ban in Britain.
Florence becomes involved in all this by her more or less chance encounter involving the abduction of a young woman. More or less ignored by the police, she starts digging into the situation on her own. The plot, as they say, thickens, as she discovers more layers to the various bits of evil doing afoot, and she discovers within herself strength of character that she may not have been aware of before. Her previous experiences in the Dawlish Chronicles have all mostly been against enemies who are also enemies of Nicholas, with all the overt qualities of obvious bad guys. The enemies here are not obvious, and who to trust is a major issue. She enlists a small band of confidants, some of whom have appeared in previous volumes, one character fresh to the series, eventually winning, or mostly winning, the day.
This is an interesting departure for Vanner. He has essentially abandoned his main story line, and character, for a very different milieu. Doubtless fans deeply rooted in iron ships with large guns and all things nautical are going to be disappointed. It is also possible he may come in for some criticism that as a male, how could he write a book with a female central character? Not much can be done for the hard core navalists. For this reviewer, the main question is whether it is a good story or not. It most assuredly is! Florence, in case readers of the earlier volumes hadn't figured it out already, is quite courageous and smart, to boot. A lady with grit and determination. And I think she does very much come across as female in the story, not just a male protagonist given a woman's name and, ahh, body parts.
A curious side note to the main story. As the Cleveland Street scandal is being exposed towards the end of the book various names of fictional patrons of the brothel are exposed. One such name, although a real individual and "What I expected." is not mentioned. Vanner, in his afterword, likewise cannot bring himself to name the name, although he drops some very broad hints as to who the individual in question may be. I leave it to curious readers to do their own sleuthing on that topic.
, Mr Vanner chooses to shine a light on the seamier side of Victorian England.
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'This is a story that does not pull punches; the research into misery, hypocrisy, yet bravery and high moral intent that...Read more