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4.1 out of 5 stars
Devoured (Hatton & Roumande Book 1)
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 August 2012
In the mid 1850s, the churches and parlour rooms of middle and upper class Great Britain were reeling under the onslaught of science. While the invention of medicines, typewriters, sewing machines, the camera and the bicycle were all well and good, how could God's finest creation, Man (shortly followed by Woman and the Foreigner), be the relatives of apes and beasts? How could the uncovering of monsters turned to buried rock fit with the chronology of God's Earth? Much of the Establishment treated evolutionists as little more than practitioners of sedition but there were a few members of the upper classes who promoted and funded this new science with enthusiasm. It is one such enthusiast - Lady Bessingham - who is found murdered in her bedroom at the beginning of D.E. Meredith's excellent Victorian mystery, Devoured.

Devoured is the first in a series to feature Professor Hatton and Monsieur Roumande, proponents of another new science: forensics. Although this is a time when autopsies were more widely regarded as an unnatural, sinister practice or as entertainment for the salacious and and moneyed rather than as having a use, here Hatton and Roumande are put to work with one of Scotland Yard's most progressive and famous detectives, Inspector Adams. Together they uncover a trail of missing letters, written on an expedition in Borneo by young Benjamin Broderig to Lady Bessingham, his glamorous patron. Now back in London, Broderig insists that these letters must be found at all costs before they cause untold havoc to society and religion. But they are not alone in their quest - there are others who search for the letters and it's not long before the trail is not just of letters but also of corpses.

D.E. Meredith has created a thrillingly complex and rewarding Victorian mystery. Encompassing scientific and evolutionary expeditions in Borneo, the sinister fens of eastern England, the glamorous mansions of dukes and the muck and gloom of London's poorest streets, it covers great distances. We also meet a cast of characters that is drawn from across the layers of Victorian society - layers clearly defined and separate by day and darkly blurred by night. At one level, Devoured is a satisfying intellectual exercise, a forensic investigation into the series of increasingly elaborate murders. However, this clinical puzzle changes as the novel progresses, merging with a brutal and horrifying portrait of London's vulnerable and poor. The murders are gory and D.E. Meredith does not shy away from the squeamish detail. We see the victims laid out just as Hatton, Roumande and Adams do and we also sift through the evidence with them, watching alongside Benjamin Broderig.

The novel switches narratives throughout. At times we follow Hatton's investigation, at other times we are with Ashby, the poor lackey and scribe of the powerful Duke of Monreith, or Madame Martineau, dressmaker for rich women by day and madame for rich men by night. Interspersed throughout are the letters themselves which tell their own story. Despite the many threads and the occasional dropped stitch everything weaves together to produce a most satisfying result, the pace building from chapter to chapter as the urgency to uncover the truth builds.

Devoured puts its Victorian setting to good use and examines the age of Darwinism with an intriguing perspective. Atmospheric and riveting, gory and polished, and always well-written, Devoured is a thoroughly enjoyable thriller and mystery, set at a time when forensics were in their infancy and science was undoing beliefs.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 November 2010
DEVOURED sounded to me at first like yet another vampire novel, but how wrong I was ... it's far more gripping, far more sophisticated than just another take on the bloodsucker bodice-ripper. Gothic novels may have been conceived as 18thC sensationalism - and D. E. Meredith is gratifyingly true to the genre, with plenty of gloomy architecture, wicked and twisted characters, defenceless females - though NB they are by no means ALL defenceless, and not all the corpses are female, either - and there's a gruesomely mangled body to stumble over round every dark corner. However, as the story leads the reader deeper into the mysterious underworld of its setting (from a snowclad, fog-swirled London out to the jungles of Borneo) it is clear that this is no Victorian Aga-saga: behind this plot there's a mind like a steel trap. With scientific precision, Meredith takes on the birth of forensics against a backdrop of times shaken by Darwin and awash with the controversy surrounding evolutionary theory...a neat parallel is drawn between a baby Orang Utan shot by a Dutch explorer (with a 'gentleman's gun') and the abuse of class privilege as a member (*cough*) of the aristocracy is suspected of being involved in less than humane practices towards females of his own species...I don't want to say too much, for this is a pageturner of a book and is well worth a read.
The characters Roumande and Hatton survive to tell the tale, however, so here's hoping a sequel's on the cards....Devoured (A Hatton & Roumonde Mystery)
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on 9 February 2015
Hard going bit slow .
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 2010
Unfamiliar with this genre, I thought I'd have a go and what a treat! Sumptuous in its description, I felt transported back into the mid 19th century and hugely pleased to be living now! The grime and poverty of Victorian England is vividly depicted, along with the tensions between the established authorities and the oppressed. A great backdrop to a tale of intrigue and shame that winds its way through the heart of London's powerbrokers to the least of her inhabitants. And all this carefully dissected and evaluated by the embryonic new science of forensics. A really enjoyable read. I hope there is more where this came from.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 November 2010
Having worked for both The Natural History Museum and The Royal College of Pathologists (odd combination I know!) this booked immediately ticked the right boxes so when I realised it was gripping read too - all the better! I loved the pace of the novel and the evocative portrayal of Victorian life around the time of the emergence of new thinking on evolution. The characters were well formed but at the end the book left me wanting to know more about them - perhaps this is a good thing in that it will encourage me to read the next novel by this author and the further adventures of Dr Hatton. Great stuff.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2011
D E Meredith's Devoured is an engrossing read set in both Victorian London and the jungles of Borneo.
It is a Victorian mystery with a very complex but absorbing plot... an unputdownable read.
I was immediately drawn into the world of Victorian England and felt immersed in the plot from the first page.
I loved the beautiful prose, descriptions and meeting intriguing and likeable characters as well as the wicked and twisted ones.
A gripping, absorbing page turner that I can't recommend enough......Brilliant.
Looking forward to not only more in the series but a television/film adaptation.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2011
As a big fan of the historical mystery genre, I am a critical reader but this does not disappoint. I had just finished working my way through the complete set of Sherlock Holmes mysteries so this made a really interesting contrast - stuffed with all the period detail but with a style to appeal to a modern audience. The central characters of Hatton and Roumande are nicely drawn with plenty of scope for development. Well written and lots of fun - next instalment please!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 2010
Loved this. A gripping story that twists and turns through the dark streets of Victorian London and way, way beyond. Meredith manages to keep each strand of this deeply textured novel pulled taut while allowing everything room to breathe. A hugely satisfying read. How often do you get epic and exciting combined with subtle and nuanced? Good bet if you like dark and gothic; good bet if you like detective thriller; good bet if you like rich, unexpected prose.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 March 2011
This pacey crime novel grabs you by the throat and pulls you through it pages, taking you by turns on a dark journey through Victorian London via the jungles of Borneo. D E Meredith manages to deliver a beautifully written complex tale, plenty of grisly murders, and an extraordinary insight into early forensics and the rise of the Men of Science. This is no mean feat for a first novel. I eagerly await the next Hatton and Roumande mystery.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 2010
I couldn't put this book down. The foggy streets of Victorian London really came alive through the clever descriptions of the fashions and the characters. The research into early forensics was fascinating and the jungles of Borneo were an excellent backdrop for the intrigue surrounding the early naturalists.In addition to the historical drama it is also a page turning thriller. It would make a fantastic film.
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