London -- fiction
“It’s a pity you’re not prettier,” or words to that effect seem to follow March Middleton everywhere she goes. She is alone in the world after her surgeon-father’s death, her mother having died at her birth. With no marriage prospects and frankly no desire for wedlock, apparently penniless March accepts an old family friend’s invitation to be his ward. After all, London must be more interesting than the placid English countryside.
Finley Jayne, The Girl in the Steel Corset, could not have known that her wretched night, indeed her wretched life, was about to take a turn for the better. Whilst fleeing the scene of an assault—which she did not start but did finish—she encounters a gentleman of a very different caliber. She discovers Griffin, the young Duke of Greythorne, is a person to be trusted. Like Finley, he has secrets, though, which will either draw them together or rip them apart—perhaps literally.
Hannah is very happy to be moving to London. It’s 1665, and for a young yet just-grown-up girl, it is surely the center of all that is fascinating and bold. She’s to join her sister, Sarah, At the Sign of the Sugar Plum, where she will help craft delicious confections for gentry and commoners alike. Hannah knows she will be working hard to establish the business, and that suits the red-haired young woman perfectly. Indeed, everything suits her down to the ground, including the handsome apothecary’s apprentice.
But there are rumors that the plague is has struck London again this summer. It’s just a few people at first, and the King’s court is still in town, so nobody minds it too much. Then the disease spreads wildly, until thousands each week die in agony. Hannah and Sarah are both frightened, but leaving London and their business would mean giving up their dreams.
After reading CRRL librarian Joy O’Toole’s great write-up on Agatha Christie, I thought I’d give one of her series a try. I’m not sure why I had been avoiding them. I like British stuff, historical novels, and mysteries. But what I had glimpsed of Inspector Poirot and Miss Marple did not immediately grab me. I decided to try one of her lesser-known series, Partners in Crime, which starts with The Secret Adversary.
Friends since childhood, charming, young, and starving Tommy and Tuppence meet at a London tea shop to catch up, only to discover that they both face the same problem—chronic unemployment! In London after the Great War, there aren’t a lot of jobs to be had, so for the price of an advertisement in the newspaper, they decide to create The Young Adventurers, Ltd., a firm that will take on very nearly anything.
London Below is a dangerous, magical place. In Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Scotsman Richard Mayhew had just settled in with the upwardly-mobile routines of London Above. He had an office job that might be going places and a stunning if toffee-nosed girlfriend who was perhaps rather too keen on gallery-hopping for his taste. His lovely Jessica had plans for Richard’s life that did not include helping the bloody and broken young lady who lay across their path.
It’s not her fault they call her Bloody Jack. Well, not exactly, though I suppose in her way she earned it. ‘Twasn’t always like that, though. She came from a nice if poor family in London, Mary did, before the pestilence came and took their lives, and horrible Muck came with his wheelbarrow for their bodies to give to the doctors to cut up. Set out on the curb, crying as a small girl will, old Muck tried to cheer Mary by assuring he’d be back for her before too long.
British author F.R. Tallis has always been fascinated with electronic voice phenomena, also known as EVPs. Through these recordings, it is believed that one can pick up otherwise unheard spirit voices, a method long popular yet controversial with paranormal researchers. Sometimes EVPs seem to pick up vital information on the subjects’ past, revealing disturbing events that could have led to their demises. At other times, the recordings have proven to be completely useless and false. The fascination continues, however, as Tallis says on his website, “A ghost that has been objectified by technology is altogether more convincing and subsequently a great deal more frightening.”
In Tallis’ recent novel, The Voices, Christopher Norton, his wife Laura, and their young daughter Faye move into a beautiful Victorian house in London during the stifling summer of 1976. Norton discovers that the size and location of the home is perfect for his career as a film score writer. He finally has the opportunity to build his own sound recording studio. But as the hot summer nights wear on, Laura begins to hear slight knocking sounds on Faye’s baby monitor. Then come the mysterious, unearthly voices that crackle through the speakers.
Charles Maddox’s client turned out his daughter years ago for having “fallen,” in the way that Victorian women were said to do. She disappeared into one of London’s many workhouses and by the time her father wanted her back, there was no trace of either her or the child she bore for an unknown father. Lynn Shepherd’s The Solitary House leads readers on a tour of the sights, sounds, and smells of old London’s worst and best neighborhoods—places that often lay cheek by jowl to one another, as Charles struggles to find the missing girl.
She’s Leaving Home is William Shaw’s debut novel. Set in 1960s London, a young woman’s body is found on a residential street, near the Beatles’ recording studio on Abbey Road. Detective Cahal Breen needs to solve this case to prove he is still up to the task of being a detective, following what appears to have been an act of cowardice. Teaming up with Helen Tozer, a new policewoman, Breen begins to focus on the many young fans who congregate outside the Beatles’ studio.
There are graphic novels that literally paint then print images onto the page. The Brother Athelstan books are another kind of graphic novel. They have a very visual feel to them, only it’s done with words. Some medieval mysteries are as stuffy as a centuries-old cupboard. P.C. Doherty’s The Nightingale Gallery isn’t like that. Its characters breathe and move and love and murder with a striking vivacity.