Tuesday, 26 October 2021

The English Monster

It is annoying when publishers don't release a high-quality large cover image for people to use on their blogs. Anyway, I liked the cover of this one, felt a bit Rivers of London:

In the east end of Regency London, two families lie butchered. Residents of the notorious Ratcliffe Highway, the victims bear the mark of unprecedented brutality.

Panic sweeps the country as its public cries for justice. But these murders stem from an older horror, its source a sea voyage two centuries old. In a ship owned by Queen Elizabeth herself, a young man embarks on England's first venture into a new trade: human souls.

As a nation's sins ripen and bloom, to be harvested in a bloody frenzy on the twisted streets of Regency Wapping, an English Monster is born. 

This one was very atmospheric, a lot of detailed description of places and people that helped bring it to life. A nice, mysterious start. Though my head just wasn't quite in the right place for this. I think it was because I was so busy packing for the UK and listening to it in between Clockwork Angel, which had all of my attention. I lost the thread a little. There was a sort of supernatural element to it, with a man who didn't age, but also very realistic elements as well. There was an interesting character called l'Olonnais, who was a French pirate. Someone who didn't make an appearance on Black Sails, but who sounds as though he probably should have done.

There was also mention of The Mysteries of Udolpho in there, Ann Radcliffe... when the book is about the Ratcliffe Highway murders... probably over-thinking that a little too much.

Like all nods between Englishmen, this one carries an enormity of meaning. "We are sailing in uncharted waters," it says.

I have to say, it is rare that I fail to follow the plot of a story. I think I just wasn't paying full attention. The introduction of the supernatural to what was otherwise a realistic murder, based on true events, threw me a little. It felt like two different genres that didn't sit entirely easy with one another. 

There was also mention of the Zong, a notorious slave ship where many of the people being transported were thrown overboard and drowned as part of an insurance scam. This felt a bit thrown in there without much explanation of why the ship was so infamous. I first learned about this through Laura Shepherd-Robinson's period crime novel Blood & Sugar. I feel that novel really brought the horror of it to the forefront and built a solid whodunnit around those events, whereas this threw in a lot of references without them being central to the story.

So, this was descriptive and atmospheric, but could have picked up the pace a little. But, again, that could also just have been me, listening whilst packing and doing other things.

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