on 16 October 2012
I struggled with this. The premise is exciting, but for me the writing was stilted and uninteresting and the dialogue flat. Its not bad, but its not that good either. I see the rave reviews and wonder whether we were reading the same book. Then I noticed that many of these 5 star reviewers have reviewed no other books, so perhaps one can assume that they are reviews from D.E Meredith's friends. Who knows?? But I was bored with it, and irked by its cliched dialogue and lumbering prose. At one point I dumped in in favour of Louise Welsh's The Cutting Room, which only served to reveal yet more clearly how a good mystery should be written. If you want to read a tip top historical mystery book try Fingersmith (sarah waters). 'Devoured' is undergraduate by comparison. But perhaps these Hatton books will get better as the series progresses... I don't think I'll be buying another to find out.
on 9 October 2013
I like historical crimes stories a lot, so when my mum found this one, I was looking forward to it. Straight up, I had a real problem with the way it was written. I found the sentence structuring really distracting - lots of sentences without either a verb or an object, and way, way, too many starting with 'and' or 'but'. I found the jumps in POV difficult to follow, and I found the way the plethora of characters were introduced, seemingly slotted in at random without context, really quite difficult to follow too. I almost gave up.
However, the subject-matter was intriguing and different enough to make me keep going - forensics in early Victorian times, and a crime that was complex, a veritable web of clues and non-clues, that kept me reading. The characters, I found, not so well-drawn, and in some cases verging on the stereotypical. There were no clear-cut 'baddies' or 'goodies', and it wasn't that they were all drawn in shades of grey, but that they all felt two-dimensional. The period detail, the historical research, the ambiance of the city in the grip of a winter freeze, and the atmospherics of the mortuary itself, however, made up for all these faults. As I said, I kept reading, and if you like period crime and want it with a bit of a twist, this one might be for you. There's another, I see, but I'm not sure that I'll be rushing to read it. Then again...
on 2 August 2013
This well written novel for me at least,is a mixture of fascinating historical facts, and a critical look at part of the dark underbelly of Victorian London with some rather gruesome murders taking place. It tells of forensic science at its beginnings-the autopsies performed in substandard rooms with substandard equipment by Dr's looked upon as being little better than the Devil, and on the other hand an almost total non acceptance of the radical ideas of Darwin and those with siDevoured (Hatton & Roumande)milar beliefs
This was a violent, degraded time to live in London is my feeling about the time, but on the other hand 'bring on the next in the series!
on 25 November 2012
I had read quite a number of reviews of this book and was really looking forward to reading it. I wasn't disappointed but at the same time at the end there was a quiet little voice nudging me. D.E.Meredith's prose is flowing and descriptive, but the plot seemed a bit too quick. I expected more depth in actions. The characters are ok, just the sort you'd expect in this kind of story. Maybe it is just that. Seen it before. Nevertheless, I've also read the second one and enjoyed it. Yes, it is a book to have in your bookcase.
on 27 June 2013
I am of a strange, divided opinion about the Victorian world. As a historian it bothers me, since it is almost too current and understandable to class as history in my mind, and the fact that it feels too recent often steers me away from it. I have, of course, watched and/or read the staple works of the era. I find Sherlock Holmes to be a little awkward and badly-tied together in literature and often too gung ho or arty in cinema (with perhaps the exception of some recent re-imaginings). But regardless, there is something about Holmes that speaks to the mystery lover within. Victorian literature generally leaves me cold. Dickens produced some nice pieces, but I was schooled on the like of Thomas Hardy and frankly I would rather read a Shanghai phonebook. Similarly, there are pieces of crime history and folklore of the era that do hook me: the infamous `ripper' killings; Spring-heeled Jack (not heard of him? Then look him up); the Eilean Mor lighthouse (same again). You see, I deny the pull of the Victorian era as too modern and too dour and monochrome, and yet I will find myself wandering in the Brompton Cemetery in London and it steals my breath and transports me to a beautiful chilling world...
And that's what this book did. It would not be unfair to throw in a phrase such as `CSI Victorian London'. This is about the very birth of the forensic art in a world that distrusts too much `Godless' science. I expect the comparison annoys the author, so I won't dwell on it, but it gives you a clue of the direction of the books. The tale is a story of two forensic pathologists from the famous St Bart's in London, drawn into a murder investigation that just becomes more obscure and complex the more they dig. In fairness, I found the characters of the pair a little hollow in terms of description and explanation when compared to some of the incidental characters but perhaps that's a good thing as it left me room to picture them in my own way. (I gather people find my own protagonists portrayed in a similar way, so I will certainly choose to see it as a strength! ;-)
But the characters - while fascinating in their own right, and clearly central to the story - are not the main draw for me. Devoured hooked me in three ways.
1. The writing
I am, and have always been, a huge fan of the period horror tales of H.P. Lovecraft (and also Sterling Lanier's Brigadier Ffellowes). And I was delighted to find that from almost the outset, parts of Devoured really put me in mind of his writing (the parts written in journal/correspondence form in particular.) They also reminded me a little of the Dracula story-telling style of Stoker. It would have been enough to hook me on its own. But those sections are interspersed with current investigation that keeps all the flavour and style of Victorian London and yet presents it in a form most accessible for a modern reader. That alone is a triumph. At no point did I ever tire of reading Devoured.
2. The plot
Kept me guessing right to the end. A mystery rarely does that (for anyone, not just me.) Roughly every 50 pages through I would put Devoured down, review what I knew, and try to deduce what had truly happened. I was never right. The whole plot is not so much a complex spider web, with a vicious spider at the centre and half a dozen dead flies, as an old sash window, home to two or three overlapping cobwebs, several spiders of varying unpleasantness, and a host of slightly worrying crane flies, dead wasps and so on. The plot of Devoured is complex and a well-crafted thing of chilling beauty. I challenge all comers to mail me with a solution before you are within 60 pages of the end!
3. The atmosphere
Devoured pulls out all the chilling Victorian winter atmosphere of any Dickens, Holmes, Ripper, Lovecraft tale and then some. Meredith's affection for the era shines through in her writing and makes the reader not just see the story, but feel it; experience it with more than once sense. There are moments when I had to lower the book and exhale deeply after something was just so chillingly described that it made me pause. Equally, there are moments that made me chuckle with genuine affection and moments that made me wish I could truly see what Hatton was seeing.
Devoured is a masterpiece. Do not be put off if - like me - you're a great one for neither whodunnits or Victoriana.
on 1 November 2014
Pretty dark subject matter, slightly gruelling at times. Good creation of a murky atmosphere but writing style is unremarkable and had to put effort in at times to stay engaged. One part turned my stomach. Not enough to commend it and I don't think I'll be back for more. Try 'The Mangle Street Murders' if you prefer a side helping of gallow's humour, just as much gore and much easier, accessible writing.
on 2 February 2012
`Devoured' is a stunning book with all the elements of a Victorian mystery. Set in London in 1856, Ms Meredith transports the reader to the most compelling and often seedy parts of the city, beginning with the morgue at St Bart's, which is described in gloriously evocative detail with flickering candles and eerie shadows. This is the workplace of early forensic pathologists, Adolphus Hatton and Albert Roumande.
The main characters are skilfully drawn with entirely credible mannerisms and foibles. The chemistry between them, as they work together, is palpable. They are a great duo, with enormous potential for further tales. Following the murder of Lady Bessingham, we journey with Hatton and Roumande as they investigate the underworld of Victorian London in search of the killer. The plot is complex with many twists and turns. It is cleverly interwoven with intriguing letters from exotic Borneo. The dénouement was completely unpredictable; the mark of a true crime writer.
`Devoured' gives a tantalising insight into Victorian forensics at the very beginning of this fascinating science, within the context of contemporary superstitions and opinions. It is a gripping début and I can't wait to read the next instalment of Hatton and Roumande's adventures.
on 5 November 2015
This novel starkly portrays an unsavoury aspect of life in Victorian London, contrasted with a tender portrayal of the friendship, both personal and professional, between the two central characters.
I don't like the deliberate use of ungrammatical, half--completed sentences that the author frequently uses, but otherwise this is a gripping novel with a convincing plot.
A series worth following.
on 14 October 2013
In 1856 the least fashionable and thus least socially acceptable area of medicine in which to practice was forensics. Being a surgeon rather than a decent, respectable doctor was considered bad enough but pursuing a living that involves dissecting folk was just beyond the pale. In addition to the social stigma, those few brave men of science willing to devote themselves to forensics also had to overcome the problem of funding their research. The gentlemen scientists of the Victorian era had to rely on wealthy patrons to sponsor their work and, unsurprisingly given the mood at the time, forensic specialists did not enjoy an abundance of generosity. It is this difficulty in funding the development of their science that leads Professor Adolphus Hatton and his morgue assistant Albert Roumande to assist the police with their investigations in the hope of securing a nice annual stipend from the local constabulary.
In Devoured, the first Hatton and Roumande mystery, the proto-CSIs are called upon to assist Inspector Adams of Scotland Yard in solving the murder of glamorous society contrarian Lady Bessingham. While Lady Bessingham might have courted controversy with some of her intellectual pursuits and her patronage of certain adventuring scientists and rare specimen collectors, there appears no reason for her murder. Employing their cutting edge forensic techniques (no smoking near the corpse, sniffing said corpse for peculiar odours, making use of cutting-edge [ha!] German bone saws, etc), Hatton and Roumande find themselves on the trail of a cache of seditious letters that has the potential to change the face of society and religion irrevocably.
Devoured is an intriguing historical murder mystery. D. E. Meredith has clearly done a great deal of research, both into the Victorian period in general and into the early days and development of forensic science in particular. The level of detail that she provides gives the novel a real air of authenticity and the period tone is maintained throughout the entire story. While authors are often good at recreating the place and material circumstances that provide the setting for historical fiction, recreating the speech patterns and dialogue choices of the time is often far harder. Happily, Meredith's writing doesn't falter when it comes to dialogue and so there are no jarring misstatements to distract the reader from the story.
The mystery surrounding the death of Lady Bessingham is perhaps a little slow to get going as there is quite a bit of scene setting and basic character building at the beginning of the book. However, this slow build-up really helps to establish the period setting and to introduce Hatton and Roumande as deep, sympathetic characters. This slow beginning could also be due to the fact that Devoured is the first book in a proposed series featuring the forensic duo and so is tasked with firmly establishing the characters in readers' minds. There's actually not that long to wait to see how other Hatton and Roumande mysteries develop as their second adventure, The Devil's Ribbon, is due to be published in February 2013.
Although Devoured may begin slowly, the investigation into Lady Bessingham's murder does ultimately involve plenty of action as Hatton and Roumande investigate a host of nefarious characters and challenge accepted societal mores. The process of identifying the killer involves some truly ingenious detection and the story twists and turns from the darker side of the docklands to the steamy jungles of Borneo to the gentile drawing rooms of Victorian London's upper class. Hatton and Roumande's investigation leads them to face plenty of danger and dubious dealings, with the conclusion to the mystery being disturbingly dark. Devoured is a great beginning to what could potentially be an excellent historical mystery series.
on 17 August 2014
I was looking forward to this book - It's not very often I don't finish a book - well hardly every, but I stopped reading this when I wasn't even half way through. I love Victorian murder mysteries, but this just focused to much on the specimen collecting which the author obviously had knowledge and expected the reader to have the same passion - it was just boring and I don't know if it was just me, but by the time I gave up reading it - I knew who had done it..............so I won't even give the second book a go I'm afraid.