Great start to a new Victorian detective series
Firstly the setting: Victorian London. This was rendered in glorious technicolour - or perhaps not so glorious, as it is the time of the Big Stink, after all! I felt that William Sutton really nailed the setting and transported me wholly to another time and place. I particularly appreciated the various nods to the contemporary period and recent past; I thought the author did a great job of using the past to comment on the present, although please don't think that's the main point of the book. It is, first and foremost, a complex historical police procedural focusing on Campbell Lawless, a Scotsman new to Scotland Yard.
In terms of plot and theme, this book is tightly wound. Encompassing terrorism, industrial strife, technology and the concept of progress, corruption and class issues, there is plenty to get caught up in here. Poor old Lawless has plenty to contend with to get in the way of solving the case, and it's safe to say that I did not see the twists coming. Although there were points where I needed to re-read to get developments clear in my head, that was probably more to do with my fogged brain than the writing.
The characters, as well as the setting, were a key strength of this book. William Sutton has a keen eye for detail and a great ear for dialogue and turns of phrase. There were so many distinctive and intriguing characters in this book! Lawless of course is great: an honest man who naively assumes that his job as a policeman is to find the truth (imagine!). Other highlights include Inspector Wardle, intimidating and worldly; the Worms, a band of street urchins who run errands and Ruth Villiers, a curious librarian with a keen sense of morality.
I really enjoyed the way the story was told, as well. With regular newspaper extracts, contextualising the story's events and showing how Lawless's successes (and failings) are reported in the press, these extracts really add to the novel. I'm a sucker for multiple voices and unusual narrative devices, so I felt these added an interesting counterpoint to the main storytelling.
Overall, I'd definitely recommend this as a solid police procedural, and I look forward to following Lawless's future adventures also.
William Sutton will be here at the Heathfire on Monday, answering some questions about his work, so do pop back then.
From the Publisher's Website:“Before Holmes, there was Lawless… Before Lawless, the London streets weren’t safe to walk…”
London, 1859. Novice detective, Campbell Lawless, stumbles onto the trail of Berwick Skelton, an elusive revolutionary, threatening to bring the city to its knees with devilish acts of terror.
Thrust into a lethal, intoxicating world of sabotage and royal scandal – and aided by a gang of street urchins and a vivacious librarian – Lawless sets out to capture his underworld nemesis before he unleashes his final vengeance.
Lawless & The Devil of Euston Square is the first of a series of Victorian mysteries featuring London policeman, Campbell Lawless, on his rise through the ranks and initiation as a spy.
Murder. Vice. Pollution. Delays on the Tube. Some things never change…
Publishing 1st August 2013 by Exhibit A Books
More info at the author's (particularly brilliant) website
My grateful thanks to the publisher for providing an e-arc via NetGalley