- File Size: 3209 KB
- Print Length: 242 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1539958698
- Publisher: Little G Books; 2 edition (November 13, 2016)
- Publication Date: November 13, 2016
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01MRJWVXN
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,172 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Rack & Ruin (The Victorian Detectives Book 4) Kindle Edition
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* Priggish: In Dickens, the writing is an over the top mix of sentiment and satire, steeped in Victorian melodrama and sanctimonious prudishness. Author Hedges pares back the language to make every word count, while mixing in a welcome dose of humor. "It is much too early for urgent reports, but Greig begins to read it, silently tutting at the absence of paragraphing. As usual, the comma has looked in the face of the writer and decided not to disturb him."
* Emotional: Dickens' characters and writing are constantly bouncing between narrowly suspicious and bizarrely credulous, making them seem shallow and flat. Hedges' characters come complete with backstories that inform and drive their actions. Daisy Lawton, the beautiful young girl about to make her debut into Victorian society, could have been as one-dimensional as Lucie in Tale of Two Cities. Instead she has the conviction of friendship, and the example of her parents' marriage to give depth to her character. Even better, despite clues and speculation on what drives Inspector Grieg, his backstory isn't revealed until the end of the book.
[quote] He's a single man. No children. But the Bow Street sergeants say he's like a terrier after a rat up a drainpipe. Absolutely determined to catch these people, whatever it takes. [end quote]
* Social Critic: Dickens didn't shy away from pointing out social issues, although his writing became increasingly dark as he realized that social woes such as poverty and child abuse were immune to his critique. It's true that Carol Hedges has the advantage of 20-20 hindsight, but she uses that to take on the particularly difficult Victorian crime of baby farming, one which was virtually invisible to Londoners at the time, even though they routinely came across the corpses of children who had died of abuse or neglect. Rack and Ruin's Inspector Grieg muses, "He regards it as deeply ironic that there are laws against mistreating animals, strict licensing laws for the numerous cow-keepers who supply the city with fresh milk, but not a single law to safeguard the lives of children."
* Twisty Plots: Probably as a result of being initially published as serials—the soap operas of his day—Dickensian casts are huge, plots convoluted, and plot twists rely heavily on contrived coincidences. This was lampshaded by Oscar Wilde in his play, The Importance of Being Ernest, which earnestly—sorry, I couldn't resist—entreats, “Now produce your explanation and pray make it improbable.” But this is where Carol Hedges comes into her own. Without abandoning the properly Victorian tone, her plots involve lots of characters who are constantly running into each other as they pursue goals ranging from apprehending baby murderers, to making a socially acceptable marriage, to education for women, to blowing up Parliament. Although Rack and Ruin, like all books in this series, works as a standalone, it's fun to welcome old friends like detectives Stride and Cully, and Cully's wife Emily, while each has a role to play here.
The descriptions of 1863 London are wonderful, especially as it contrasts the idyllic London of the upper and middle classes with the London being reshaped by the industrial revolution.
[quote] It is the month of May, and the city is in full bloom. Green leaves unfurl, yellow celandines peep from their lowly beds. Violets beckon coyly. Pink frothy waterfalls of blossom cascade from park cherry trees. Birds and bees go about the purposes for which they were created and everywhere from crook to cranny, in garden bed of bow pot warmth returns and nature reasserts itself in song, hum, bud and flower.
Here there is only the shrill roar of escaping steam, the groans of machines heaving ponderous loads of earth to the surface, the blasts of explosives, and the clack of pumping devices as the future arrives in lines of steel rails and a thundering in the blood. [end quote]
I really can't say enough good things about this book and the whole series. If you want a great detective story, beautifully detailed within its historical context, with a well-rounded supporting cast, I recommend Rack and Ruin as well as the earlier books in this series. The pace accelerates to a satisfying conclusion, while the descriptions of London, Victorian language (frowsty?), and society at various levels is pure entertainment.
***I received this book for free from the publisher or author to facilitate an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***
When the wonderfully named Edwin Persiflage and Danton Waxwing, who lodge in Hind Street, decide they have a grievance against the rich and privileged and declare themselves anarchists, they pose a threat to the public resulting in yet another problem for Inspector Greig.
Miss Daisy Lawton is living in a different world altogether. Full of the joys of spring, she’s young, pretty, well to do and on her way to meet her best friend from school, Letitia Simpkins. The two girls have vastly different backgrounds – Daisy is secure in the love of her family and the knowledge life only promises good things, such as being in love, shopping and parties. Whereas Letitia has a tricky and strained family life, at the beck and call of her parents and only a step up from the servants. The only light at end of her very dark tunnel is a well-timed meeting with librarian, Sarah Lunt, who is of the opinion ladies should be able to study and train for a profession. Letitia herself loves learning and believes there should be more to life than waiting for a man to offer marriage.
As in her previous books, Carol Hedges’ vivid and engaging prose recreates the atmosphere and flavour of Victorian London and its inhabitants evocatively, so that I was transported back in time immediately. The story gives considerable realisation and understanding of life at that time, across the many societal levels of the population. The characters are portrayed extremely well, including the secondary ones, and whether they’re likeable or not they draw the attention.
Lachlan Greig is a wonderful addition to the stories, I like him a lot, and it was good to get reacquainted with Stride and Cully. The plight of, and non-existent civil rights for, women in Victorian times is highlighted, not only by the machinations of Daisy’s mother and Letitia’s horrible situation but also with those who are forced, for whatever reason, to seek the services of the so-called ‘baby minders’. People who are at best unscrupulous, and at worst guilty of mass infanticide. The obviously in depth research needed for this story must have been heartbreaking.
I’m loving these books and am very glad to know there will be another.
Reviewed for Rosie Amber’s book review team and based on an digital copy from the author. This does not affect my opinion or the content of my review.
I've read the other three of Carol Hedges' colourful, amusing and really rather brilliant Victorian murder mystery series, and this was every bit as good. They're complete stand alones, by the way, no need to read them in order.
Rack & Ruin follows the stories of several wonderful characters: lovely, outwardly superficial, privileged Daisy Lawton, a girl looking forward to her first 'season'; Ms Hedges very cleverly avoided the trap of making her merely empty-headed, but gave her a heart of gold, too, especially when it came to her friend, poor Letitia, who is bound to a life of drudgery by her horrible father. Then we have the would-be anarchists, Persiflage and Waxwing, Scottish detective Lachlan Greig, and various other upper middle class ne'er-do-wells, street rogues and those eager to make money by foul means, mostly the evil 'baby minders' around whom the story centres.
This book is not just a clever story with hilarious characterisation and descriptions so good you want to read them twice. It's an insight into how difficult life really was for women in those days, only 150 years ago, and a view into Victorian London as clear as any film or TV drama series. When I got to 84% I thought 'oh, no, I've only got a little bit left', and tried to make it last as long as possible.
I believe this might be the last in the series but I do hope not; as long as Carol Hedges keeps writing these books I'll keep reading them as soon as they're available, and you should, too!
Most recent customer reviews
Excellent storyteller. I feel like I've gone back in time to the cold wet streets of London.