Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with this ARC.
This historical fiction novel and murder mystery is set in 19th century England and features a young Charles Dickens, as he is starting to make his way in the world as a journalist. He is visiting the family of his editor, Mr. Hogarth, one fateful night, when a young neighbouring girl is taken ill and ultimately dies. There is something suspicious about this death, and Charles suspects foul play. His suspicions are strengthened when he hears that another young woman in the neighbourhood died under similar dubious circumstances a year earlier. He resolves to get to the bottom of it, not only because his journalist’s instincts are awakened, but also in an attempt to protect the other young women of the area from suffering a similar fate. Among which is Kate Hogarth, the daughter of his editor, with whom Charles is rather taken (she later became his wife).
Intriguing premise, but this ultimately did not deliver for me. I found that there were too many characters and I spent half the book thinking “who is this now again?”. The problem is also that you don’t really get to know most of the characters, so it’s also difficult to get into the story from that angle. The plot gets buried under excessive amounts of description and dialogue, and failed to keep my interest. I also found the conclusion of the mystery a little unsatisfying as I would have liked more build-up to it, which could have been done through amongst other things getting to know the main players in the drama better, and maybe dropping some clues a little earlier on.
As far as I can tell, it does seem to be historically accurate and the language is period appropriate. I’m sure a lot of research went into it, though personally I would have liked a little more focus on the plot and characters.
So if you enjoy books that are heavy on description and dialogue and focus less on character development and plot, and/or you are a big fan of Dickens or (pre) Victorian England, this may be a good choice for you. For me it unfortunately fell a little short of expectations.