Green, the symbol of Irish pride and a symbol of Irish rebellion–this is what forensic scientist and doctor Adolphus Hatton is thinking when he pulls a green ribbon from the mouth of cadaver.
In D.E. Meredith’s latest thriller, The Devil’s Ribbon, London is a pressure cooker….the searing July heat of 1858, the wretched stink of the Themes, deadly diseases lurking in every inch of filth from Highgate to the Rookeries of the East End, and….feuding Irish and British tensions are at their breaking point. Hatton and his assistant Albert Roumande, are knee deep in a spike of cholera deaths when Inspector Grey of Scotland Yard approaches them with a curious case….a predominant leader in Irish/British relations is found dead and murder is suspected.
When Hatton and Roumande examine the body they find that is jaw just isn’t ‘quite right’ and once opened they pull out a silky green ribbon. Grey knows exactly what this means….its a message from the Fenian groups–a band of Irish revolutionary thugs and terrorists. If word of this kind of execution reaches the public, the London press will have a field day and it will only increase the mounting tensions between the Irish and Brits….these three unlikely companions join forces to try and catch the killer before it is too late.
Though Hatton and Roumande have the new forensic science on their side, the killer or killers are always one step a head of them. The body counts rise and with each victim comes a calling card–the green ribbon. Riots being raging in the slums as word of the murder spread and the pressure is on Grey and the two scientists to solve the crimes….after a strategic bomb rips through a popular London shopping district the Irish communities in London’s slum claim responsibility….Hatton must solve this one and quickly.
Meredith and I are friends on Twitter and one day I was pondering what to read next, she suggested her latest book. I had seen reviews of her first book Devoured, the first in the Hatton and Roumande Mysteries, and I was intrigued as I love the Victorian era and all the ‘murder by gaslight’ kind of mysteries. So her publisher over at St Martins/Minotaur Books sent me a copy of The Devil’s Ribbon. Normally I like reading series (especially mystery series) in order but I was anxious to start reading as the over all series sounded smashing.
I really enjoyed the cast of characters, Inspector Grey is dreadfully corrupt (or at least that is the implication)….I never really liked him but I never really disliked him either–I sense that he has his own interesting ‘back story’ of sorts. I loved Hatton, he is not overly confident in his abilites as a forensic scientist so he is not arrogant….he is charming, and kind and just seems to go about his day as normal and when he gets overwhelmed or stressed he throws himself into his work. He is not a rich gentleman but he is not a poor body snatcher either….he is literarily a regular middle class man. His assistant, Roumonde, is an older Frenchman who seems to be more of a father figure to Hatton, and he is really seems to know more about the new science of forensics than Hatton–so there is a little bit of ‘teacher and pupil’ between the two characters, though it is Hatton that takes center stage in this duo.
One of the things that I especially liked about Meredith’s book was her knowledge of Victorian history. My own interest in Victorian society typically don’t include foreign policy or politics so I was drawn in by the Irish angle of the book. I am not at all as familiar with Irish history (though my mother is quite the Irish history and Celtic mythology expect ironically, I’m highly recommending this book to her by the way :)) as I am with other periods so I was thankful that Meredith gave lots of background on the Irish/British tensions, revolution, and uprising.
I know at times it is easy to ‘over do’ background info on a subject but this was NOT the case with Meredith’s novel. I felt what she provided was the perfect, it was enough to understand the context of the tensions in the book and the time period but not so much as to put you to sleep. Ironically I am now actually interested in reading a little more on Irish history thanks to her book :). I also loved that she really knew Victorian era London….the drug addiction of opium, the science, the slums…..everything. I really felt like she knew what she was talking about and clearly made an effort to make historically accurate references to the advancement of science and the overall feel of London at this time. As a student of both literature and history, historically accurate details are a HUGE deal for me when I read historic fiction and she NAILED it in this book, brilliant job!
The only criticism I had about the book was the cover, I am not a fan of the cover I would perhaps gone with a simple kelly green ribbon against a white background or a gold background maybe. Of course that is stylistic opinion and you know what they always say, you can’t judge a book by its cover….as is the case with this book. Though I don’t care for the cover, the book itself was great!
If you are a mystery fan, particularly a Victorian mystery fan, I would highly recommend this book. It was fast paced and did not lag, there was a little bit off everything in the book, a romance, murder, politics, history, and betrayal…it has all the makings of a great series and one that I plan on continuing (I must go back and read Devoured now!). It wasn’t overly gory or graphic and it did keep me guessing all the way to the nail-biting end :).
- Hardcover, 304 pages
- Published October 25th 2011 by St. Martin’s Press
- ISBN 0312557698 (ISBN13: 9780312557690)
This book counts toward: NA
- Hosted by: NA
- Books for Challenge Completed: NA
Recommendation: 4 out of 5 (good solid nailing biting mystery).
Genre: Mystery, gaslight lit, Victorian lit
Memorable lines/quotes: NA