'How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare that after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.' No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest of some amusement. — from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
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March 7, 2011

Bleeding Heart Square

Somewhere, I'm not sure where, I got the impression, before I read it, that Andrew Taylor's Bleeding Heart Square was a different kind of book than it is. You could be forgiven for thinking that it was set in Victorian times, and the setting (a mysterious, enclosed, cobblestoned London slum) and the situation (a plucky but cossetted woman flees her abusive husband, leaving everything behind to live with the father she has never known in a mysterious, enclosed, cobblestoned London slum) feed that, until you start to see references to lorries, and engines, and the Great War, and losing everything in the Crash, and fascism. 

I had read some of Andrew Taylor's series mysteries a long time ago, but had missed this one. It's told in alternating narratives:  in pages from the diary of Miss Penhow, the aging, lovelorn spinster who owns the house at 7 Bleeding Heart Square, and an unidentified voice who comments on them, and then from  a third person narrator who tells us what is happening to its current residents. 

The mystery hinges on the disappearance of Miss Penhow and how Major Serridge has come to be the landlord of the house she once owned. The unfolding happens as the residents, the people they're related to, and the detective investigating the disappearance all come to be connected.  There's a well-evoked dark atmosphere (poverty, unemployment, dirt, violence, black shirts, rotting meat), and the end, when it comes, is unexpected but somehow the only possible one.

I'm usually drawn to more cozy mysteries, but I'm beginning to look for historical settings too, and this one, creepy and suspenseful, was a good departure from the mysteries I usually read.

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1 comment:

Annie said...

I very much enjoyed this, but I know that some people who had been expecting either one of his Nineteenth century tales or modern thrillers were disappointed. Have you read his latest, "The Anatomy of Ghosts", set in eighteenth century Cambridge? Very creepy.

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