Saturday 31 October 2020

The Curse of the House of Foskett


I'm sorry, I disappeared for a while. Work has been rather full-on and it's left me little time for anything else, including writing, which is a shame. But, needs must.

Returning with the first of a few catch-up reviews.

Sidney Grice once had a reputation as London's most perspicacious personal detective. But since his last case led an innocent man to the gallows, business has been light.

Listless and depressed, Grice has taken to lying in the bath for hours, emerging in the evenings for a little dry toast and a lot of tea. Usually a voracious reader, he will pick up neither book nor newspaper. He has not even gathered the strength to re-insert his glass eye. His ward, March Middleton, has been left to dine alone.

Then an eccentric member of a Final Death Society has the temerity to die on his study floor. Finally Sidney and March have an investigation to mount – an investigation that will draw them to an eerie house in Kew, and the mysterious Baroness Foskett... 

I picked this up in a sale because I really liked the cover.

However, I must stop doing that. As with The Labyrinth of the Spirits, it was actually not the first in its series. Unlike The Labyrinth of the Spirits, I hadn't read the first one, so there were a few back-story references that I hadn't a clue about.

It was fine enough, but not entirely my cup of tea. With the exception of The Ruby in the Smoke series, I have limited enthusiasm for the Victorian era. I set half of Secure the Shadow there simply because you really have to if you're talking about the history of photography. It was the subject that took me there, rather than a deep affiliation for the period. Although, I do adore steampunk fashion.

Anyway... This is very Victorian. It was a good story, but the main character is rampantly misogynistic the entire way through. That's fine, it's his character, but I read for escapism, so to escape into the arms of that doesn't feel like much of a holiday. He didn't really have any redeeming features, so it was a bit Sherlock Holmes without the charm.

I also mentioned in my review of The Wasp Factory that, although I love the darker side of fiction, I can get ever so slightly squeamish when animal cruelty is involved. There was a very particular issue with cats in this one that left me squinting a bit. Mind you, there's also quite a fascinating bit about brain-eating maggots, which was also quite icky but far more engaging. 

Unfortunately, I also guessed very early on who the culprit was, although not the reason. This didn't detract, but as I hadn't particularly warmed to Sidney Grice, I didn't really mind if the baddie killed him. 

The book is the second in The Gower Street Detective Series. If you enjoy slightly gory, unsettling, Victorian-era whodunnits, I think you'd probably enjoy this. It's more of a dark-nights fireside read than a holiday beach read.

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