It looks like a period whodunnit..Dorothy Sayers in Soho, maybe..Lord Peter Wimsey plays pathologist..but don't be misled by the sepia tint or the well-turned ankle of the cover. It's a comedy - dark and rich as treacle - just nothing like as wholesome. And it slips through genres like sand through fingers -- the similes are catching. Louise Levene has a way with a metaphor that makes you wonder why you never saw things this sharply - and she turns dialogue so beautifully it makes you want to raise your own game - or read it aloud, when you've finished laughing. Nobody else sounds like this - though there are shades of the best black comedy (Muriel Spark kept coming to mind..or The Ladykillers crossed with Joe Orton, maybe) -- so the writing is deliciously old fashioned and completely modern at the same time. There is a plot - unfolding over three days - too twisted to lay out here: the central characters a wide-eyed, would-be bluestocking (motherless Miss Dora Strang) and a world-weary star-pathologist (the heartless Dr Kemble). There are widows, aunts, corpses and a treasure of period detail (M.E Rathray's "Cold Meat and How to Disguise It" makes star turns). All alive and to relish -- like eavesdropping on an era. The real crime, underneath all else, turns out to be the War: what it did to men, women, class, press, sexual relations, Society (rampant Syphilis...) Like 'Visions of Loveliness' it draws you in, quick and tight. As you read, the film of the novel starts to play in your head and you find yourself casting characters: Beryl Reid could do the deliciously crazed landlady Mrs Frith. It's a world where no-one is as simple, or simply dismissed as they seem. Funny, smart and gruesome; read and cast it for yourself.
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