To have one’s ideas be heard, isn’t that what all scientists want? That is certainly what forensic scientist, Professor Aldolphus Hatton, wants in D.E. Meredith’s thriller, Devoured. In the budding world of Darwinism, botanical study, forensics, and science in general– Hatton is using early forensic science to solve crimes all around Victorian London hoping that this new manner of solving crime will catch fire and blaze a new path of crime fighting.
I recently read the second book in the Hatton series, The Devil’s Ribbon which I thoroughly enjoyed. Meredith and I are friends and she offered to send me a copy of Hatton’s first mystery since she knows I hate reading books out of series order. To my smashing delight, she personally signed my copy, I LOVE IT! 🙂
The series in general intrigued me as I love the Victorian era and all the ‘murder by gaslight’ kind of mysteries, and I am also a huge fan of really science-y novels….I love forensic mysteries! One of the things that I especially praised in The Devil’s Ribbon was Meredith’s knowledge of Victorian history, Devoured was equal to the same praise—Meredith really knows her stuff!
Devoured takes Hatton and his right hand man, Albert Roumande, embark on another richly crafted mystery. Throughout the book we get many different points of view (POV). First, Hatton and Roumande are called on by Scotland Yard to use their new science and investigate the murder of Lady Blessingham, a pro-evolution eccentric.
Lady Blessingham’s close friend, Ben Broderig, is on the scene when Hatton arrives with the Yard, apparently he sent the deceased many letters while he was abroad in Borneo collecting specimens. He almost instantly beings demanding the return of the letters claiming they are personal in nature.
One murder quickly turns into a series of grisly murders for Hatton….most with some connection to Lady Blessingham. During all of this there is a seemingly unrelated subplot of murdered young girls being ignored by police but not by Roumande.
We then meet Ashby, a clerk for Duke Monreith who is somehow involved with Madame Martineau—who’s resume boasts a lengthy description: prostitute/dressmaker to high society ladies/publisher of seditious pamphlets/dastardly foreign who blackmails everyone she can.
The pressure is on Hatton to solve the murders as the body counts continue rising, becoming more and more horrific—this is a very Jack the Ripper style book (as the cover kind of implies).
The plots eventually culminate in an exciting, ending with a twist…though getting to the resolution with all the various plots happening is a little daunting but worth it in the end. One thing that kept me going and wanting to read the book was the relationship between Hatton and Roumande. While Hatton is clearly the protagonist, Roumande is more than just his ‘side kick’.
Roumande is intelligent and capable–a trusty and knowledgeable companion for Hatton. Though they are not equally educated–Hatton being the formerly educated one and Roumande being more of the working class educated Denier—they are a team.
Though along those same lines, one criticism I had about this book was I didn’t feel as though I got to really know Hatton that well. I felt like I got t0 know him better in the second book. While I found this book more intimate (the letters made it more intimate for me), I didn’t feel like I got to know Hatton and Roumande that well until the second book—I guess it was a good thing I read them out of order then LOL :).
One thing that Devoured had that I felt The Devil’s Ribbon lacked though was the exoticness and the science angle. While The Devil’s Ribbon was clearly heavy handed when it came to forensics, this book was much more scientific in its approach. I loved all the references to exotic, far away animal and plant species. For me, the colonial far east (Papa New Guinea, Singapore etc) are such a huge part of Victorian England and yet frequently forgotten in literary works etc. So I loved that Meredith included the far eastern influence throughout the mystery.
Reading the letters (which was also a nice added touch) was like reading a scavenger hunt with all the exotic ports and species….every time I came across scientific names or ports I didn’t know, I Googled them to find out more info so it was like a scavenger hunt, lots of fun! Excerpts from the missing letters spread throughout the book added a nice contrast between the romantic/exotic far east and the gritty streets of London….they also gave the impression to the reader that there was more happening than meets the eye….dark, buried secrets.
As I said in my review of her other book, I really felt like Meredith 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. Between all the expeditions and the rise of Darwinism changed the way society thought about themselves and the world, Meredith captured this potent reaction and shift in society seamlessly. 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 both of her books, brilliant job!
If you are a mystery fan, particularly a Victorian mystery fan, I would highly recommend this book. Though this book was a little confusing with the various plots and POV’s….I did like it better than The Devil’s Ribbon. It was more intimate in some ways and the pace was consistent…prose was also rich and elegant. There was something for everyone….science, history, politics, sedition, religion….everything….it has all the makings of a great series and one that I plan on continuing to read.
Book: Devoured (Hatton and Roumonde Mystery #1) by DE Meredith
- Hardcover, 336 pages
- Published October 26th 2010 by St. Martin’s Minotaur
- ISBN 031255768X (ISBN13: 9780312557683)
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 thriller, Victorian mystery
Memorable lines/quotes: NA