Dear Ms. Stone:
I had high hopes for this book. It is set in the late Victorian era and features a yard man as the hero and an industrialist’s daughter as the heroine. Everything about the premise and story is fresh and different. Unfortunately this is more of an action flick than a mystery with the book relying heavily on large scale action scenes to move the story along. All the external physicality of the book lost me and I had a hard time keeping track of which body was falling to the next bullet or blow.
Scotland Yard Detective Raphael Lewis is sent to Scotland to guard heiress Fanny Greyville-Nugent, after a number of wealthy industrialists are found murdered. Lewis attempts to elude the assignment because he and Fanny have a messy past involving a broken engagement between the two. His superior is firm. There is no one else to send. Once there, Rafe discovers that the threat to Fanny’s life is real and imminent.
Fanny is a suffragette and an engineer for whom construction of mechanical devices are deemed child’s play yet she plays the damsel in distress for almost all of the book. She even needs advice from the hero on how to best free themselves from ropes. She’s described as pouty several times. She exhibits absolutely zero intellectual curiosity when she comes across one of her father’s colleague’s amazing inventions (submarine). The time period (late Victorian) with the setting (on the run from bad guys) and the setup (industrial inventor’s daughter who is an engineer herself) could have been used in so many amazing aways yet it was all for naught.
Raphael leads the way and she follows whether it is running down streets, climbing out onto roofs, dangling off of haylofts or jumping from trains. In sum, there seemed to be very little independent thinking that Fanny employs. It isn’t until page 191 when Fanny comes to the conclusion that I wondered about in chapter two. She has enough money to hire her own private army so why is she running around with a man who jilted her and broke her heart?
I’ve read my share of action/adventure stories but the action scenes are almost wooden like the insert Tab A into Tab B sex scenes. It as if we are off to the side and someone is giving us a dry play by play of the event and I never felt engaged. I pondered this and came to the conclusion that like those manual type sex scenes, the action scenes involved no emotional component. Fanny didn’t express horror or dismay; Raphael doesn’t feel fear or adrenaline. He is just hanging and jumping and shooting.
The never use a plain word when cant will do also was a struggle for me. Whether it was bicycle (rover, velocipedes); worse for wear (drossy); whorehouse (molly) and so forth, the attempt to create atmosphere with cant was overwhelming.
The emotional movements are forced. For instance, when the two arrive at a safe house and Fanny decides to bathe, she has the head of the spy force unbutton her and then she confesses that Rafe betrayed her trust, called off the betrothal on the night of the engagement ball and admits she still cares for him. Why is she babbling about these things to a total stranger, a co worker of Rafe’s? I’m guessing this is sequel bait at the hot head of the spy force whose eyes are dark and whose husky voice is both attractive and dangerous. But it seemed so overtly manipulative. There was a lot of promise to the story but the action heavy sequences and the non stop villains which reminded me of neverending supply of Thumbs from Spy Kids (worst children’s movies ever) dragged the story down.
Probably the coup de grâce was Rafe’s TSTL actions at the end which ultimately lead to more danger rather than less and even a cods head could smoke the negative outcome several paces down the rum pad. C