Kept: A Victorian Mystery Paperback – 1 Feb 2007
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"A gripping tale, crafted with passion, and intelligence, and an honourable addendum to the golden age of the English novel" (Simon Baker New Statesman)
"A genuinely fascinating reading experience... A pageturner of the highest order. It is a genuine mystery - not a simple whodunnit but a constant revelation of a complex and tight-knit plot" (Philippa Gregory The Times)
"He has a faultless ear for the varied nuances of mid-Victorian English... [and] takes a wicked pleasure in creating a dense underlay of references, a blend of historical fact and other authors' fiction which lies beneath his narrative and occasionally erupts into it... Clever and hugely readable" (Andrew Taylor Independent)
"Taylor's skill ensures the book never loses its grip... Hugely enjoyable...Conan Doyle, Dickens and Wilkie Collins knew how to do it, and Taylor has learned his lesson well... A great read. It intrigues, diverts and delights. It is clever and intricate and huge fun" (Susan Hill Guardian)
"Taylor is marking out a territory as distinct and disturbing as Greenland, with the same imperative towards moral inquisition and a flatlands melancholy that is all his own" (Hilary Mantel Sunday Times)
Madness, greed, love, obsession, Machiavellian plotting and a great train robbery in a captivating Victorian mystery about desire and possession.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is padded out with far too many scenes of characters schlepping around London on irrelevant or uninteresting errands, and vignettes that tell us things we already know. While there's no lack of Victoriana, and every locale is duly described as being miserable and dreary-looking, there is a deficiency of atmosphere. It is more an intellectual exercise in pastiche than a living novel and far too down-to-earth and mundane: a great detective who has been built-up offstage turns out when he finally arrives to be incredibly bland, and is enabled to unravel the case by a stroke of luck, of which the narrator slyly remarks that it would be tutted at in a work of fiction - well, yes. At another point the (unnamed but intrusive) narrator wryly notes the tendency of the novelists of the period to romanticise London types into loveable comic characters - 'London has been discovered'. One smiles, but the book would have benefited from a 'character' or so of its own.
In fact the book comes to seem like some pointless post-modern exercise in deflating the genre and thwarting the reader's expectations. A character one anticipates is going to be become the hero does very little even to advance the story.Read more ›
Then there's the plot: the very first page of the book by way of newspaper obituaries reveals that 2 people will die (Henry Ireland and James Dixey), but although the next chapter goes back to a time when both are still alive this does not in the least diminish the tension built page after page. On the contrary, chapter after chapter you eagerly read on to find out how they will meet their end.
Next, I should mention the fascinating mix of literary techniques and points of view D.J. Taylor uses: excerpts from diaries, third-and first-person narrative, at times an (almost) omniscient author, it's all there and used to very good effect.
Last but not least, it's been quite a while since I came across a novel so rich and colourful in its use of the English language. Consider this: "a tall man, elderly but apparently vigorous, in a suit of black with a white stock tied around his throat and bony hands that, resting curiously on the desk before him, looked as if they might have concerns of their own and be about to go scuttling off across the veneer in defiance of their owner's wishes.". There's close to 500 pages of the same stuff waiting for you behind the cover of 'Kept', what's keeping you?
In some places the sentence structure is so tortuously convoluted that one has to read it twice before any sense or meaning is apparent. The plot line is also all over the place and lacks a sense of coherence. Perhaps the author ought to have limited the narrative voices to one or two instead of having several perspectives. On the whole a disappointing read and an overrated book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In the style of a Victorian Gothic novel and much praised for that. Clever but not for me. I gave it away.Published 8 months ago by billsown
In 1863, Henry Ireland, a young landowner is thrown from his horse and dies. His widow Isabel, already grieving for the loss of their child is removed from society into the care... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Jennifer Cameron-Smith
A sorry disappointment. The book suffers from the lack of a strong central character and it is hard to maintain interest in the set of disparate quaint characters who undertake... Read morePublished 22 months ago by J. AMEY
This book is by one of the best writers of Victorian genre novels. Not a quick read, you must not miss out on a words. Read morePublished on 22 Nov. 2013 by Miss Jill
Written in a sub-Dickensian tongue-in-cheek style, needs patience as the story slowly gathers momentum, then becomes a gripping page-turner. Worth reading.Published on 8 Sept. 2013 by baker'sboy
Over the last couple of years, I've struggled to get to the end of a lot of fiction and have only finished a couple of novels since Easter. Read morePublished on 31 Aug. 2013 by saint_maybe
This was exactly the sort of book I really enjoy - 'in the style of' those old Victorian master novelists, Dickens, Collins, Thackeray, by a writer making more than a few nods to... Read morePublished on 30 Nov. 2009 by Lady Fancifull
What was all the fuss about? This was badly written, drawn out and unlikable from the start. I would not even want to give this book away.Published on 28 May 2009 by Z. Nichols