By Heather Redmond
Publication Date: October 25, 2022
This is the fifth installment in the Dickens Crime Series but know before going in that it’s not necessary to have read the previous novels in the series. I haven’t and had no trouble following along.
The series follows Charles Dickens in his early twenties as he makes his name as an author and, apparently, amateur detective. This book is set in 1836 while he’s writing The Pickwick Papers. Charles is called to Harrow on the Hill to help his friend William Aga find three young boys they sponsor as charity students in William’s father’s school. The boys have gone missing but when Charles arrives, there is a more pressing problem. The body of a young maid is found and it seems a treasure map may be the cause of her demise. After a bungled inquest, Charles begins investigating not just the maid’s death, but also the treasure map while also searching for his lost charges.
There’s a lot going on in this novel. A quest for a killer, a treasure hunt, and missing boys. Toss in a cholera epidemic and I had to wonder if there wasn’t a little too much happening at one time.
Before I get into that, I’ll cover what I liked. I really liked the historic detail. This is a bit earlier than the period I’ve set a series in so a few things were different and nothing jumped out at me as being off. Honestly, the inquest left me baffled, as well as people’s knowledge of disease (specifically the causes of cholera), which means the author did a good job of not inserting knowledge that the characters wouldn’t have had. And I loved the inclusion of a few characters that would appear in some of Dickens’ later works. Watch for them.
But, overall, I had problems with this novel. Primarily that I never connected with any of the characters. I’d go so far to say I didn’t much care for them. It seemed that no one was very…nice. Lots of side eyes, dismissiveness and at times, snobbery. It wasn’t anything overt and I don’t think the intent was to have unlikable characters, but that’s the way they came across to me. Also, their train of thought and priorities didn’t always make sense. For most of the novel, they seemed to place more emphasis on figuring out the map than they did trying to find the killer.
Pacing was also an issue. Too much emphasis was placed on the unnecessary details. The author went into great detail about little things that could have been skimmed over. For instance, the women were about to go out, but we got nearly a paragraph about the maid going to fetch their cloaks and where they’d been hung. To me, it was much more important for them to go speak to whomever they were going to talk to, rather than slow the pacing by telling me where in the house their cloaks had been hung.
I walked away from this one a little disappointed. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
2.5 stars ⭐⭐+
Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for providing the ARC. I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.
Until next time, thank you for visiting.