The Graves of Whitechapel by Claire Evans

GravesofThe Graves of Whitechapel is a compelling exploration of a grimy, dark and crime infested Victorian Whitechapel.  A murder mystery at its core it also looks at the different shades of morality that people experience. This book is relentlessly dark, I kid you not.  This is a veritable black hole of despair and desperation but at the same time it’s hopelessly addictive and so very atmospheric.  I was literally transported back in time and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this classic-feeling murder mystery.

Five years ago Cage Lackmann successfully defended his client, Moses Pickering, of a murder charge.  Moses walked free and Cage continued with his infamous career.  Known as the Poet, he’s not averse to waxing lyrical in the courtroom as he defends the ne’er do wells of London’s criminal underbelly.  Unfortunately, that case is about to come back and bite him hard on the unmentionable.  An identical murder to the one Moses was originally accused of has occurred and whilst this could be a copycat the very fact that Moses has disappeared really doesn’t bode well.  Things look very bad for Cage.  His career could be over, he has many debts and is down to his last decent bottle of claret.  He needs to find Moses and he also needs to find the killer.

I’m not going to elaborate further on the plot but instead discuss what worked so well for me with this one.

Firstly, the style.  It’s wonderfully evocative and has the feel of a classic but with a more modern and easy to access style of writing.  The attention to detail was excellent and the pacing was almost, after a brief spell finding its feet, frenetic.

Secondly, the setting.  Victorian London, without doubt, makes the perfect setting for this style of story.  Narrow this to Whitechapel during perhaps one of it’s most illicit and salacious periods and you’re really ticking boxes. This is positively Dickensian (without the overabundant wordiness).  Poverty, filth, dark alleys, houses of ill repute, seedy landlords and their dilapidated properties, criminal bosses and down at heel types – it’s all here.

Thirdly, the characters.  There’s such a lot going on here.  There’s the murders of course which make for compelling enough reading on their own when, like me, you’re desperate to unravel the clues.  But, more than the plot there are the characters.  They’re all so morally dubious.  Cage for example.  He has secrets.  He’s retained by a criminal boss,  There’s a lot more on his mind than murder and he’s the sort of character you kind of want to shake.  Or slap.  Or both.  His family history is also painted in shades of grey with his glamorous yet flighty mother who seemed to sell him out as a young child.  We have the beleaguered detective, angry and aptly named Cross – he’s so determined to catch someone that whether he catches the murderer or not seems incidental.  And there are a number of other characters, equally painted in shades of grey that help to maintain the sense of mystery.

The plot itself runs around like a headless chicken.  Sometimes I was baffled but I was certainly never bored.  Cage is like a maniac charging between destinations, picking up clues and red herrings as though there’s no tomorrow.  He goes on some wild goose chases.  He gets into bother.  He uncovers some truths, particularly about people and the fact that sometimes being different isn’t something to be feared.

In terms of criticisms.  Nothing much to be honest.  The story takes a little time to find it’s feet but to be fair I think this was necessary.  It helped to give a feel for the characters and provide some backstory and I think everything here was essential in helping the mystery unfold in a way that was compelling.  Plus, there was still these tantilising little snippets that kept you glued.  In fact, if time was no issue, and books weren’t multiplying like rampant bunnies around the place, I would love to read this again and follow the trail of clues once more to see what I missed.  As it is, those bunnies books won’t read themselves now will they?

In conclusion, this was a wonderfully atmospheric and compelling historical murder mystery that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I’d say, if Cage and Cross were to make a reappearance I wouldn’t hesitate to read more, although that’s just purely wishing as there is no indication that this is a series.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publishers, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

 

10 Responses to “The Graves of Whitechapel by Claire Evans”

  1. Kitty Marie's Book Reviews Blog

    Great review, this is my first time hearing of this book. It sounds atmospheric and mysterious, definitely going to look more into it.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed it. I predominantly read sff these days but still like to pick up the odd historical novel here and there – or murder/mystery – and this definitely filled the spot.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Ooh, why have I not heard about this one before? I am all for relentlessly dark 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      Think Dickens but without the over abundance of words. This book certainly doesn’t seem to have a lot of singing and shouting about it atm, very low key indeed, but I liked it. I”m a bit of a sucker for anything that has a ‘classic’ type of feel, plus murder mystery and Victorian London so definitely my catnip.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Ola G

    A very compelling recommendation, Lynn! 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      Thank you – I enjoyed it. The writing style was good and it had a crazy ‘what the heck is going to happen’ type of feel.
      Lynn 😀

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    A compelling review for what promises to be an intriguing book! The best compliment you could have paid this story is your willingness to re-read it immediately upon finishing 🙂 But that’s a luxury we cannot afford, is it?
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I wish I had more time sometimes to go back and reread.
      Lynn 😀

  5. waytoofantasy

    Wow that cover is such a contrast to the description, I love that. This one sounds interesting and you have me with ‘atmospheric’, might have to see if my library has it and put it on hold. 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I enjoyed this one far more than I expected and it seems to be a book with very little fanfare atm. It’s not a fantasy though, just thought I’d point that one out, historical fiction but full of atmosphere and tension.
      Lynn 😀

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