- Series: Snowbooks Historical Fiction
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Snowbooks; UK ed. edition (April 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1906727937
- ISBN-13: 978-1906727932
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.2 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,866,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Diary of a Murder (Snowbooks Historical Fiction) Paperback – April 1, 2011
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The story that follows reveals a doting husband, a humble clerk, who married above his station (Dora's father is a draper, and rich, and does not like young Jacob). Jacob gushes about his sweet wife, confesses his yearnings to be a writer, admits his frustrations with his in-laws, who seem snobbish and conservative. He also has an alcoholic father whom he has bailed out of financial difficulties more than once. A reader has to sympathize with his plight. And Dora's, as well, because when she miscarries, she goes into a deep depression, and Jacob hasn't a clue to how to pull her out of it.
But wait. His sweet wife knows nothing of Jacob's drunkard father. Jacob has invented entirely another background for himself. And how devoted is Jacob really as he showers the sweet Dora with pet names and repeatedly worries for her health? And is he the pushover he makes himself out to be when he helps a young seamstress living with his father find employment first with a neighbor, then in Papa Willis's work-room? And why does he aid his co-worker, Fortesque, who is in deep trouble over mismanaging company funds? You have to wonder about someone who knows himself so little. Likewise Delby and Preston scratch their heads continually over the ups and downs of Jones's diary as Jacob's own troubles mount, his writing grows more and more desperate - but sometimes calculating.
This is a good read to the last page, full of a multitude of surprises, and I didn't see the end coming at all.
There was a big twist in the end that I didn't see coming at all; but I did feel a bit cheated by it.
I can't say much without revealing spoilers, but let's just say the reader is led to believe the protagonist is a certain sort of person and then is handed a bait and switch towards the end which felt rather 'easy' to me, and removed any sort of investment I'd had in the character. Immediately upon closing the book, I thought of a more satisfying ending than the one I got.
That aside; the story was written in a very interesting style, switching between the entries of a diary and typical story narrative. At times the diary entries felt like they dragged a bit and I would have liked more from the third party narrative of the story.
The language was perfect though, capturing the London/Victorian vernacular to a T. Also, Lee Jackson's knowledge and expertise regarding 1862 London was in full effect, with much in the way of details in terms of places, fashions, slang terminology and other facets of the time. The details might seem too extraneous and boring to those not interested in the time period.
There were also distinct moments of humor where I chuckled out loud at the perfectly British remarks made in the diary itself.
One major negative was with the editing though; I found several mistakes, mainly typographical, within the text.
All in all, enjoyable read albeit with some drawbacks
The Diary of a Murder begins, naturally, with a murder. Mrs. Dora James is found on the floor of her room with her head caved in. Downstairs in her husband's disordered study is a conspicuous pile of papers, topped by a hastily scribbled note which starts with some incriminating words: "I know in my heart I am the man to blame." The note is there, but her husband is not.
Police Sergeant Preston and his young apprentice -- called to the shabby genteel address by Dora's parents, who are concerned that they have not heard from their daughter in days -- find these unnatural scenes and begin to connect the dots. The papers underneath the note of confession turn out to be a carefully kept diary by Mr. Jacob Jones. Day by day, he has recorded the details of his dissolving marriage, unsuccessful friendships, drunken father, and misconstrued charity towards an unfortunate girl. All the time insisting on the verity of his daily recordings.
"I must mix the good with the bad, after all, if I am to bequeath to my future self a truthful account."
But Jackson's writing left me with some doubt about the truthfulness of Jones' account. It was a doubt I couldn't fully explain to myself. So it became not only the drive to explain the mystery -- and everyone, including me, suspected that Jones was guilty from the very first -- but also the need to explain the odd feeling I had that something was rotten in the state of Denmark. These were the motivations driving me quickly from page to page.
Jones' insistence on the truth of what he's telling -- and his repeated inner "struggles" to tell us what's in his mind, both good and bad -- became quite unsettling. There were a number of times when Jones reminded me of the disturbed narrator in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," insisting that we look at how wonderfully calm he can remain, how introspective and understanding he can be of his own nature, even while doing something evil. Poe's narrator could almost be Jones: "Hearken! and observe how healthily--how calmly I can tell you the whole story... You should have seen how wisely I proceeded--with what caution--with what foresight--"
Jackson does a superb job of creating this character and making him someone we have to trust -- his diary is the primary way that we learn about the other characters and the outline of the story -- but aren't willing to turn our backs on. There is always that feeling that something is off. I kept scouring the pages for some sure sign that I was right, trying to find little clues that could tell me more about this narrator who I quite mistrusted. I loved that Jackson kept me guessing. I kept checking to see how many pages I was from the ending, sure that there must be some twist to gratify my own detective skills, and anxious that it really would be as simple as the confession in Jones' diary.
I highly recommend that you read this novel for yourself and find out if you can solve the mystery of a wife's murder and a husband's questionable confession.