SHORTS, NOVELS, AND OTHER THINGS

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SHORTS, NOVELS, AND OTHER THINGS

Book Review: Pride and Pestilence by Carol Hedges @carolJhedges #rbrt #Victorian mystery

This is the second book by Carol Hedges that I have reviewed for Rosie’s website, but I loved the first book so much, I read every single one of them in this series. I always look forward to a new book in this series, and this one lives up to my enjoyment of the others.

The author has a phenomenal knowledge of Victorian London – its sounds, smells, street life, and populace – and she brings all this into her vivid descriptions of the city. The story begins with the plight of a young Irish laborer, starving, jobless, and unable to find a place to spend the night because of the prejudice against the Irish. He finally slumps down in an alleyway, his dead body being discovered the next morning. The morgue physician calls in Scotland Yard because the cause of death is similar to the plague, which has brutalized London in the past. Responding to the request are Chief Inspector Lachlan Grieg and now retired detective inspector Stride, who is featured in the earlier books.

When the orderly who brought the body to the morgue, dies of similar symptoms, Grieg, stride and Grieg’s assistant detective, Jack Cully, decide the cause of the two deaths must be kept secret, not only from the ravening press but also from the general population to avoid panic. Nevertheless, the news of a possible plague reaches the ears of smarmy Richard Dandy, the editor and writer of a daily rag, from the hospital porter, who found the arrival of Scotland Yard and the guarding of the bodies suspicious and gets paid for his information. When the bones of very old bodies are discovered at a construction site and are dumped by the site owners in the Thames, they end up at the hospital mortuary and the detectives deduce they were removed from a plague pit at the site, where the young Irishman worked.

There is always a second line of investigation in Ms. Hedges’ mysteries and this one involves London’s only female detective, Lucy Landseer. She is visited by the elder of two Broxton sisters and asked to locate the daughter of the younger sister, who was born out of wedlock and left as a baby at the Asylum for Female Orphans. The family’s inheritance passes through the female line, and as both sisters are growing old, they need to find the daughter who will inherit. Across town, Jasper Broxton, a greedy and avaricious relative who doesn’t want the daughter found because then he will inherit, makes his income with increasingly disastrous Ponzi schemes. His wife stalks the Broxton sisters and has a spy planted in their house. Broxton’s large and fat daughter Johanna is in the same class with Jack Cully’s daughter Violet and is a merciless bully of Violet and her friends.

The author builds these two mysteries like a spider weaving a web. She also does something unusual: she breaks the wall and talks directly to the reader at the beginning of the book (which is when it should be done, if at all), and the rest of the way takes you along on the investigations. In doing so, the reader find themselves personally immersed in a world of shadowy alleyways, filthy streets and squalid houses, and the flickering of gas lights. The characters are so well-drawn, that you can’t help feeling the author’s emotion in creating them. And as I’ve noted before, the author is at once humorous and heart-breaking in her character descriptions, never more so than in the plight of women in that time.

I found this book, as all of them in the series, engaging and enticing. I recommend it highly and I think anyone who reads it will read the rest in the series.

PS The covers are fantastic!

Five stars

About the author:

Carol Hedges is the successful UK writer of 11 books for teenagers/Young Adults. Her novel Jigsaw was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal. She is currently well into her series of Victorian Crime Fiction novels, set in 1860s London and published under her own imprint: Little G Books. Pride and Pestilence is the eleventh in this series. In the past, she taught at secondary school. Currently retired, she tutors A and GCSE English. She lives in Hertfordshire, England, and is married with a grown-up daughter.

You can find her on

Twitter (X): @carolJhedges

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carol.hedges.779

And her blog: http://carolhedges.blogspot.com/

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