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This review is from: Tom-All-Alone's (Charles Maddox 2) (Hardcover)
Being familiar with Bleak House, I approached the book with some trepidation (would it be disappointing precisely because of its links with Bleak House) and with some anticipation (would the wonderful Bleak House story be reflected in some measure in this story).
I am left with two quite strong opinions about this book. One, is that it is a shame that it is so inextricably linked with Charles Dickens' Bleak House, as anyone who is not familiar with that book will have difficulty picking up some of the nuances in the story here presented - some of the characters that are seen in passing, some of the literary devices used by the storytellers.
Two, is that it would have stood well as a Victorian murder mystery on its own, without having been so linked with Bleak House. Change some of the character's names, remove some of the literary tricks used by the author in tying it to Bleak House, and it would have been a good standalone Victorian myster that would have been more accessible to more readers.
I found the author's use of trying to draw the reader into a rather voyeuristic viewpoint of the action e.g. "We are beginning to form a picture of this young man, but before you smile indulgently at the hopeless clutter, and dismiss him as a mere dilettante, remember that this is the age of the gifted amateur. Remember too, that in 1850 it is still possible - just - for an intelligent man to span the sciences ...". This both detracted from the flow of the story (which is after all set in Victorian England, not now), and distracted the reader, I found.
All that aside, the writing is well paced, the characters are three-dimensional, and it's just unfortunate overall that much of their characterisations of the Bleak House characters are drawn from another author's writing.
I keep going back and forth on a final opinion of this book - I think it was good, not great; and I'd probably be more inclined to re-read Bleak House than this story. Having said that, I'd happily read more of this author's works, as they are well written (apart from my misgivings above) and engaging.