Dear Ms. Mallory:
I’ve pledged to myself to try and be more diverse in my reading because I do have the luxury of choosing among a number of books without financial risk. This is my first book from you and while I had several issues, I like the voice and would try you again.
Marietta Winters sought out Gabriel Noble upon recommendation from a family friend. Marietta’s younger brother, Kenny, has been arrested and accused of being the Middlesex Murderer. Marietta is desperate to free her innocent brother and Noble is her last chance.
Noble investigates matters for the princely sum of 10,000 pounds or three favors. Marietta rightly assumes that those favors must be costly. Marietta is so poor that she and her older brother have been reduced to eating bread and water and thus three favors is her only source of payment. Noble makes it seem like the three favors will be sexual in nature and Marietta bristles at this, but will do whatever she can to help her brother.
I think that the intent of this book was to echo the gothics of the 1970s where the reader isn’t sure if the male protagonist is the hero or the villian. Much of the story is told from Marietta’s point of view to cultivate that air of mystery around Noble.
One of the problems, though, is that not enough time is spent villianizing Noble. Every word and deed seems fairly honorable and not, in any way, suggestive that Noble himself is involved in the murders. Further, because Noble is such a mystery, we never really understand the attraction despite some internal monologuing by Noble later in the book that Marietta just fits him.
Noble goes around and solves mysteries upon the exchange of information from favors called in for past tasks performed. The rate at which Noble speeds through favors for Marietta made me quite concerned about his overall success. I kept wondering how he would have any favors left for future actions.
The individual scenes were quite nice. Noble and Marietta skulking around a saloon with Marietta playing tavern whore. Noble and Marietta skulking around a masquerade with Marietta playing masquerade whore. Noble and Marietta . . . well, you get the picture. I jest a little, but the love scenes were quite good and I grew to like Marietta despite her prickliness. (or maybe because of it). However, the story as a cohesive unit lacked punch.
Noble’s secret is revealed about half way in and kind of strips away the mystery. Without giving too much away, the second act (starting after chapter 11 or so) evinced totally different reactions that act 1 which should have been laying the foundation for what was to come. It felt a bit like two different stories. The first story was the investigation but there was no hints that Marietta should view Noble as the murderer. After all, they were attached at the hip (literally at times) so when would Noble have had time to murder anyone?
It never gelled together. C+