- Author: V.L. Valentine
- Series: Standalone
- Genre: Historical Fiction and Murder Mystery
- No. of pages: 416
- Dates read: 03.04.21 – 09.04.21
- Star Rating: 1 star
- ARC from Viper
First of all, thank you to Viper and Netgalley for a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Plot: London, 1665. Hidden within a growing pile of corpses, one victim of the pestilence stands out: a young woman with a shorn head and pieces of twine delicately tied around each ankle. Symon Patrick, rector of St. Paul’s Covent Garden, cannot say exactly why this corpse amongst the many in his churchyard should give him pause. Longing to do good, he joins a group of medical men who have gathered to find a cure for the plague, each man more peculiar and splenetic than the next. But there is another – unknown to The Society for the Prevention and Cure of Plague – who is performing his own terrible experiments upon unwilling plague-ridden subjects. It is Penelope – Symon’s unwanted yet unremovable addition to his household – who may yet shed light on the matter. Far more than what she appears, she is already on the hunt. But the dark presence that enters the houses of the sick will not stop, and has no mercy…
So, this is the first ARC review of 2021 I believe and I wish it was in happier circumstances. Sadly, as you can tell by the rating, I did not like this book. I was drawn to this book initially by the idea of a killer executing during a time of plague. I liked the idea of trying to differentiate were these deaths due to the plague or due to a murderer.
Going into this book I didn’t have many expectations, there weren’t many reviews that I saw yet so I went into it very blind.
So, starting off with the writing and plot as I think these two are very much interlinked. Sometimes with novels I talk about the writing style itself as a sole entity and then I talk about the plot separately but this time I think they need to be discussed together. The plot itself isn’t complicated it’s actually pretty straight forward but the decisions the author makes when it came to structuring this story and the writing choices itself I didn’t like. The mystery doesn’t really kick start until your about 40% into the novel, we spend the first half really watching the main character Symon go to meetings and visit a woman who is clearly not into him. This I felt really set the novel up badly as you are going in expecting to solve a mystery not listen to a bunch of men argue for pages on end and then watch a man who is supposed to be a beacon of hope for his parish go and escape to a woman who doesn’t care if he is there or not. It just takes too long for the mystery and the investigation to really get going.
Many scenes I was sat there thinking to myself “Why am I reading this?. For some of the scenes I understand why they were included, they did set up some points but the scenes themselves especially of the meetings with all the main male characters were a struggle to get through. At times I was reading the same paragraph again and again to understand what is being said and why it was important to the novel. I felt the dialogue was over complicated.
I also felt that with a plot that was as straightforward as this one that the author complicated it too much. By the end of the novel we have flicked all over the city for reasons thinking back now I don’t know why we did. And also nearly every single character introduced is considered by the author to possibly be the murderer and I understand the need for wanting to the throw the reader off the scent but it felt way too complicated.
I think what let the book down the most though was the characters. Normally, I am a plot-based reader, I can forgive some not super detailed characters if the plot is really good but since I wasn’t super invested in the plot. I looked to the characters as a way into the story but sadly nearly all the characters in this novel to me felt very under-developed. I didn’t like them. I understand you don’t have to like every character you read but I just didn’t like them. They felt very 2D for me. The main protagonist himself was probably the most infuriating, the decisions he made in this novel frustrated me and I wanted to grab him and shake him and tell him to sort himself out. I still can’t wrap my head around on whether this was authorial intent or not. I just found that since I didn’t like the characters that much it was hard to care for where the story went as I just didn’t care for the characters who drove the story forward.
What I will say is that I do think Valentine set up a good atmosphere of a plague ridden London that was truly believable. But apart from the atmosphere there isn’t much I can positively say.
The writing felt too complicated for it’s own good, the dialogue at times made no sense, I felt that the plot which could have been straight-forward was over complicated and nearly all the characters were unlikable and not in a well-written unlikable way.
So, sadly, I would not recommend this novel to anyone who happens to come across this blog post. I feel bad posting a 1 star review but I have to be honest.
The next book I will be reviewing is another ARC, hopefully it will be a more positive read. I will be reviewing Ariadne by Jennifer Saint.