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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Devoured by D.E. Meredith

While I didn't much care for the title, I loved the cover of Devoured enough to look in the book jacket to get an idea of what to expect.  The blurb about London in 1856, specimen collectors, new theories of evolution, early forensics, and a pathologist was more than enough to pique my interest.  Into the book bag it went.

This is a new series featuring Adolphus Hatton and his diener (morgue assistant) Albert Roumande, and I'm glad I overlooked the title because I really like the characters and have discovered a new series to enjoy and anticipate.

I hope that the next in the series will put a little more emphasis on Hatton and Roumande, who could be developed into more well-rounded characters without much effort.  In this first novel, we get more of an introduction to two likable and interesting characters.  I've found that to be true with some of my favorite mystery/crime series authors. 

I liked the original concept, the details about fossil hunters (collectors), the idea of forensic pathology in its infancy, the Victorian setting and references to the science vs religion conflict of the period, and the two main characters.

More emphasis is on Alfred Russell Wallace than on Darwin (both are mentioned, neither is really a character), and there is a reference to one of my favorite poems when Benjamin Broderig writes in a letter to Katherine Blessing:
But then what are we left with?  The ebb of a tide, our so-called faith, withdrawing.  A swirling vortex of nothing.  A world without God.
The reference is to Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach (which I love).  The topic is, of course, the crisis of faith that many Victorians experienced.

With scientific discoveries and Wallace and Darwin's theories of evolution, many Victorians decided it had to be one or the other:  the biblical explanation of creation or evolutionary theory.  The discoveries created a maelstrom of dissent that we find difficult to imagine today;  although the conflict still rages, it doesn't have the shock value it had in the 1800's.
Several characters were a bit over-board and the plot, too, is one of those that seems to be in a contest to see how unusual and multiple you can make a murder.  I'm not fond of this trend, but it does seem to be the rule, rather than the exception in contemporary crime fiction.

Nevertheless, I liked the novel, its concept, and the fact that it introduces a new series that will hopefully be one that continues to get better with each new addition. 
Fiction.  Crime/mystery.  2010,  291 pages.


  1. Sounds like an interesting book, Jenclair. I'll have to see if my library has it. I love mysteries set in the Victorian era. Such a nasty time in some ways - lots of fertile ground for crime. :-)

  2. Kay - It was interesting, and I enjoyed it. Yes, the prudishness on the surface covered a lot of unpleasant predilections!

  3. Sounds good. I like the Alienist, so I'll probably enjoy this book. And Dover Beach is one of my favorite poems too!

  4. Anne - I liked The Alienist, too. Isn't "Dover Beach" a beautiful poem? Arnold really symbolizes the conflicts of the Victorians in that poem.