on 24 August 2008
I loved this book, I have not read a murder mystery before but love historical novels so thought I would give this a go. Jackson has written a powerful and evocative novel which brings the past alive again. Victorian London with its gas lit groves, dark side streets, the sounds of carts clattering over cobbles and the hidden underground life are described in perfect detail by Jackson.
The novel opens by introducing the reader to the two detectives dealing with the cases of murder that have been occuring within Cremorne Gardens - the last pleasure ground on the bank of the Thames. The victims were female and murdered quite brutally, needless to say the detectives are on a race against time to catch who they refer to as 'The Cutter'. It reminded me of the tragic fate of Jack the Ripper's victims, it is set in a similar area and you assume that these females were prostitutes also. However, the deaths really start to mount up as do the clues as to 'who dunnit' and I found myself racing through the book, changing my mind every now and again as to who I believed was to blame. This book really does have a lot of twists and keeps you guessing. Some twists I saw coming, others were a real surprise.
All in all this is a brilliant book and a definite page turner.
on 22 September 2014
The best of the three Decimus Webb novels.
Although the direct speech of the characters is sometimes a little formulaic, Lee Jackson excels at narrative; the images he evokes are splendidly written, and, like the Victorian crime novels of Edward Marston, this book flows well and is very readable. Unlike Marston's Colbeck series, the atmosphere of the Victorian era is very real and very powerful in this novel.
The plot is intriguing and suspensful, and sustains the reader's interest to the end.
I am at a loss as to why the Inspector Webb series gets so many bad reviews. Jackson is by far the best Neo-Victorian crime novelist around.
Set in Victorian London this is a murder mystery with more than a touch of Anne Perry with its engagement with the dark and sexual underside to the late C19th.
In Cremorne Gardens (the eponymous pleasure garden) in Chelsea a man is stalking attractive young girls and cutting off their hair. The police are called in to investigate and come up against an obessive Reverend determined to shut down the gardens because of their impact on the morals of the area; and a neighbouring stockbroker and his family. And then the murders begin...
The problem I had with this book is that it's all surface and no depth, a bit like biting into a meringue: it looks substantial but then you find yourself with a mouthful of air...
Jackson creates atmosphere (albeit with none of the tangibility of a real Victorial novelist) but the story is very superficial. When we get to the denouement, via a rather clumsy last-minute twist, we're left no closer to understanding WHY anyone did what they did. Personally I prefer a bit more 'psychology' to my mysteries, however cod it might be. Here there were no clues, no development that left the reader pitched against the book's detective, no gradual uncovering of the truth, no tension.
And the rather odd style of writing constantly in the present tense gets a little tiring at times.
So overall this is a rather slight murder mystery which taps into the fashion that sees all Victorial culture as ultimately being pruriently about sex, and where the smooth writing promises far more than the story ultimately delivers.
on 10 June 2009
Bought this because it was tagged as being like a Jack The Ripper style murder mystery - this was so far from the truth. It was an easy read, but very shallow story, got better towards the end, but really a bit lame. Just got so fed up with main policeman being referred to as Decimus Webb all the time, I know that's his name, but it's so naff and gets a bit repetative why not just call him Webb and done with it. Sorry but book left me very negative about reading anything by Lee Jackson again.