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==Synopsis of the book:==
The year is 1900 and Inspector Sam Blackstone has just been brought in to investigate a horrific series of murders in Staffordshire. So far eight young and very respectable ladies have been murdered. In all cases the face has been damaged so that it is hardly recognisable and both the hands and feet have been chopped off. The amazing thing is that so far their have been no witnesses to these monstrous acts.
However Blackstone receives an urgent letter from a man who was under him in Afghanistan and who saved his life, a Private Tom Yardley. He feels very indebted to him and when this man requests his help the Police agree reluctantly to release him immediately. He then travels to Yardley's home a sleepy Salt Mining village called Marston. Sadly he arrives too late and the first thing he encounters is his friends funeral blown up in a freak accident.
Before Blackstone leaves Staffordshire he requests the services of Dr Ellie Carr. Who has helped him in the past on some tricky cases, as she is a Forensic Pathologist. There she teams up with Superintendent Bullock as they try and discover the reason why so many rich young ladies keep being brutally murdered.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
For me this book was a real contrast, the first half I found slow and confusing, while the second half was I thought was excellent and I really enjoyed it. I think I would recommend it on balance as a good read, you just have to be patient as it definitely gets better much better. Although I have to admit on balance I prefer the Sally Spencer novels that follow the exploits of Inspector Woodend.
In many ways this was a bit of a gamble for me as I am not a great fan of period stories. Although recently I have tried to embrace the concept. I found this story set at the turn of the 20th century to be very well written. It felt because of the depth and descriptions the author employed like you were back in this time with the various Detectives. As you really got a feel for the massive inequalities between the rich and the poor and what it was like to live in this arena.
This being my first experience of her work as Alan Rustage, I did struggle to get to grips with the various characters within the story. Indeed in many ways had I not know who the author was I would have been convinced it was the same person at all. I think this illusion was helped by the change of era and settings.
Before I started reading the book I looked at the praise for the author on the back of the book. I know in the past I have criticised author's for doing this but on this occasion it was quite useful to me , as I knew nothing about this series of books that the journalists were praising. Although I still stand by my belief it would be more useful to have the critics opinion on the book you are about to read.
Following this I checked out the summary found on the inside cover of the book. This was a good size, three paragraphs long and with great detail and background to what would happen in the story. It was well written and had me intrigued as to what would happen, in fact it was the main reason for selecting this book ahead of all the others in the series.
The story began with a two and a half page prologue. It always pleases me to have some background behind the story you read and this provided it. It was although on the short side full of great detail and for me set the scene and grabbed my attention immediately as it dealt with murder straight away.
Although admittedly this is where my happiness ended for a while. As confusion very soon set in, as Inspector Blackstone started his investigation, but was the released to help a friend and taken over by Superintendent Bullock. I thought at this point that was the last I would hear of Blackstone and indeed wondered why he was mentioned at all. As he did very little groundwork on the case before he seemingly left the scene.
I found the fact he felt indebted to this old comrade and wanted to help him charming and very honourable but at the same time baffling. That he should want to give up a massive investigation just as he was getting involved in it and more baffling still the fact that the Police Authorities actually let him go.
My confusion intensified as the story followed not only Bullock investigation of the eight teenage girl murders but Inspector Blackstone investigation following his friends letter and subsequent death and finally Blackstone's assistant Sergeant Patterson investigation into Child Prostitution. As a result of this I really struggled to remember all these new characters and who was on what investigation and how far they had got with it.
For me initially anyway these three very different stories were too much and too different for me to see any links between them. Especially as they were happening in different places involving different crimes, but all at the same time. It was only over time and with the fabulous direction and guiding by the author that the stories started to seem that they could in someway be linked as unlikely as that originally appeared.
However as time went on and the various stories developed, I started to understand, remember and enjoy the stories. They were all so different, well written but encompassing different themes. The advantage of this being if you didn't enjoy one story you had two more to consider. For me as these developed they become more intriguing. The only one I found a little dull was the Child Prostitution one, which I found slow and unsavoury.
I can't remember where is was that I started to see a link between first one story then another. The author clearly had planned it superbly and because of her excellent writing skills you did not see the similarities until she was ready to share it with the reader.
As a result I really enjoyed the way everything ultimately came together. The action seemed to happen thick and fast and I was impressed with the way the enquiries all came together. The Salt Mine story I found particularly impressive as not only was it the one most focused on but it had the most action and I had no idea how it was going to develop.
The concluding chapters to this book were very exciting, as the pace was quick with new developments even at this late stage changing your thoughts and casting a different complexion on what was happened. And while things did not always make complete sense at the time they were explained clearly later.
What particularly impressed me in the conclusion was when you thought you knew the answers there was one or two unexpected twists to keep you engrossed in the story. Which at the time did not make sense but with further investigation things definitely seemed right and logical the way the Detectives worked them out.
For me Inspector Blackstone was the novels leading character, despite sharing the limelight with two other stories and numerous interesting characters. I felt he was a good Detective and I liked the way he embraced technological advancement and was intelligent enough the be able to deal with people in all different levels. I admired his honesty and his ethics, while finding him easy to relate to. His interplay with other characters, witnesses and suspects was always fascinating as he had such a keen brain that picked up on everything going on around him. Admittedly I would have liked to know a little more about his life away from work as that was hardly dealt with in this story.
For me the other two significant characters were Dr Ellie Carr and Sergeant Patterson. Ellie was not your typical Doctor by any means and I admired and respected her for being different. She was very keen for her new science that she had studied to be treated seriously and used to help mankind. She was such a determined and firry lady who would not suffer fools gladly and gave as good as she got. I found her fascinating as she sometimes overstepped the mark and had some great insight into what was happening.
Where as Sergeant Patterson I found quite a deep intelligent but far less belligerent character. And despite being in the weakest story he still made it more interesting with his views on it. I liked the way although he seemed beaten at times he never gave up and used his skills to full effect. I would really like to see him work with his boss Inspector Blackstone as I imagine they would have a fabulous relationship.
What I will remember particularly and I will think stick in my mind about this novel is the amazing way the author brought the different stories together despite there being no links earlier in the story. These were told simultaneous taking you from one story to the next and I think she did amazingly well not showing any links until she was ready to share them with the reader. They were pulled together really well and I was so impressed as I loved the way it all came together.
Although it still worries me how out of my depth I felt with this story early on in the book. I do think I made it particularly hard on myself by not previously knowing the regular characters within the story. I'm sure instead of picking the sixth book in the series I had picked and read the first I would have made life a lot easier for myself.
The stories length was about right to tell ultimately an impressive yarn. Which just got better the longer it went with suspense and mystery developing and altering as the story changed. I found in this book while I often felt I knew what was happening on a few of the issues I did not have any concept of the direction the reader would be led on in some of them and enjoyed the way the author unwrapped these presents.
Overall I would recommend this as a well thought out and enjoyable crime thriller. Initially I found it confusing and I wondered why the author included three unrelated stories. However, as time went on I really got into it and enjoyed the authors amazing writing. I think next time I will start with book 1 in the series first as I think this will make understanding and relating to the characters much easier!!
Price: £17.99 New from Amazon
Publisher: Severn House
About the author: www.alanrustage.com
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published under my name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
@CPTDANIELS February 2011