Sunday, January 24, 2016

Edi's Spotlight: The Butchered Man by Harriet Smart

Dear Readers,

welcome to my next review which is like he previous one about a book set in Victorian England. I know that life for people at the bottom of the hierarchy was no bed of roses especially for women and children. Upper class ladies faced another enemy: boredom and paternalism. On the other hand it was a time of invention and progress. Police work were in one's infancy. It is the mix of all the ingredients which fascinate me. Of course this has an influence on what I expect on crime and/or mystery novels set in Victorian era. But I neither want Dickensian exposition nor the exclusive use of English spoken at that time. I'm afraid I would not understand a word. 
I'm more than happy that I discovered the book I review today because it delivered what I hoped to get.
Enough said.

Here we go.

The Butchered Man 
(digital, November 2011)
[ Kindle Edition ASIN:  B00P0I1Z88
"Northminster, 1840: a once-picturesque cathedral city, where dirty smoke stacks now rival ancient spires. When workmen make the shocking discovery of a mutilated corpse in a ditch outside the ancient walls, Giles Vernon and Felix Carswell are charged with solving the case.

Intelligent and practical, Chief Constable Major Vernon has transformed the old city watch into a modern police force, and he throws himself into the investigation with the same energy. But as he probes a murky world of professional gamblers and jilted lovers, he is drawn into a dangerous emotional game that threatens to undermine his authority.

Newly-qualified police surgeon Felix Carswell is determined to make his way in the world on his own terms despite being the bastard son of prominent local grandee Lord Rothborough. Called to treat a girl in an asylum for reformed prostitutes, what he uncovers there brings him into conflict with his new employer, Vernon, and throws the case into disarray.

Together they must overcome their differences and find the brutal truth behind the mystery of The Butchered Man.

The Butchered Man is the first Northminster Mystery featuring intrepid early-Victorian detectives Vernon and Carswell." [Source

The 267 pages of the book are divided into 34 consecutively  numbered chapters which are followed by an epilogue.
The story is told from third person.
Main characters are Chief Constable Major Vernon and police surgeon Felix Carswell.

1840 ... England ....the fictitious town of Northminster ... a ditch outside the wall ... a corpse murdered and mutilated ....

This is the premise for the first day of police surgeon Felix Carswell. His new boss is Chief Constable Major Vernon, a former soldier who served in India.
Major Vernon is a man with a vision of how police should be organised and work.
Felix Carswell is a young man who studied surgery in Edinburgh has to cope with the fact that he is the bastard son of Lord Rothborough.

The characterisation is well done. Both main characters have weak spots which have an impact on the story. Furthermore each character who has an impact on the story is described in a way that you know immediately the social status of the person and you understand why the act as they do. Especially the description of status and role of women is a highlight. Women do not stay in the background in this story. But the all act as one could expect from women in Victorian era.  All the characters mirror Victorian society in a superb way. They are vibrant and alive!

The fictitious town of Northminster is described in such a sense of realism and accuracy that the reader is drawn into real Victorian town like a jump into the drawing chalk sketches in the film Marry Poppins. It is like a time travel in your mind with a great portion of realism when it comes to smell, dirt and so on. But the story is not limited to the boundaries of the town. There are farms outside , the Rothborough estate, an asylum for wayward girls and not to forget a train travel to London.

Dickensian exposition and the exclusive use of English spoken at that time. Nevertheless language and prose support the story efficiently. There is something ageless in that which makes it reading a pleasure.

Who is responsible for the murder and the mutilation of the corps found in the ditch outside the wall?
This is the question to be answered by Chief Constable Major Vernon and police surgeon Felix Carswell.
Until near the end of the book Vernon and Carswell are in the dark and the reader does not get more information as they get. With every clue found by the two men and with every revelation of dirty little secrets the story twists and turns into another direction. There is more than one suspect which force guessing. Social convention is a hindrance at times.
The investigation gets more and more complicated by the personal secrets and weaknesses of the investigators. There are scenes where you may not understand the naivety of the detectives. At first sight I could not understand it too. But at second sight and with over 50 years of experience of life let me tell you, that there are men who behave like Vernon and Carswell.

All the mentioned ingredients deliver a book which is nearly impossible to put down. It is a real page turner and only sleep hindered me to read the book in one session.

Author Harriet Smart talent shines in her way to present characters, culture, setting, and description of Victorian era.

I rated the book with five stars over at GOODREADS. It is another excellent example how living conditions in Victorian England in combination with excellent characters and a twisted plot deliver perfect entertainment which does not dismiss the reader without spending time to think about living conditions and police procedure in Victorian England.

If you love crime and mysteries set in the Victorian era like I do then you should put The Butchered Man on your list.

If you want to discover crime and mysteries set in the Victorian era then you should give The Butchered Man a try.

I for myself bought copies of available book two and three in The Northminster Mysteries   
The Dead Songbird (digital, February 2013) [ Kindle Edition ASIN:  B00BD75QQW] by Harriet Smart.
The Shadowcutter (digital, March 2015) [ Kindle Edition ASIN:  B00V8YEBWU] by Harriet Smart.

Furthermore I ordered a copy of book four to be published in February 2016 in advance.
The Hanging Cage (digital, 1st February 2016) [ Kindle Edition ASIN:  B01ACFBI2G] by Harriet Smart

For more more information visit the author's site or follow her on Twitter.

This review will be posted on my blog Edi's Book Lighthouse, on GOODREADS and over at Amazon under the nickname brienneselwyn

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