Not so much a circus as a train. Or a circus on a train. Not a speeding train, not the Orient Express, not even a suburban train. This book is a fully loaded interstate train heading inexorably towards a broken bridge over a river. Along the way, passengers are jostled around, some jump out the doors, most get drunk in the dining carriage, several are angry and the rest are bemused.
Inspector John Carlyle is the most bemused of them all
I love a criminal book, you can comment hard!
Somewhere along a distant track I had stopped reading James Craig’s Inspector Carlyle series and this fourth book refreshed my memory. It contains such a high level of macho rubbish, female exploitation and smarmy politics that it is well past the read-by date.
It is astounding that the book doesn’t run off the rails with the ludicrous amount of murders
If Inspector Carlyle didn’t have off-sider Joe Szyszkowski and other sensible police personnel to back him up, he would still be floundering for answers at the end of the ill-fated journey. Maybe he’s on the wrong train? He gets cranky and often causes ‘accidents’ to himself and others due to his own dullness. Yes, he gets bashed up but never thinks his nemesis and ugly thug Trevor Miller knows where he lives – operative words ‘never thinks’. Miller is now the Prime Minister’s security adviser and totally out of control.
When it comes to using high-end brand names, from beer to clothes, watches to furniture and a plethora of cafés, this story takes the cake. Or biscuit if you are Carlyle who pays more attention to topping up his blood sugar levels and imbibing strong coffee than policing. The ending will have you spluttering in your coffee, it is beyond contrived.
Published in 2013, the political issues and phone tapping scandal is old. The dialogue is old, most characters give a neutral “Hm” when asked to respond. There are too many hands placed on arms, too many raised eyebrows; and the plentiful white males POV often switches to an omnipotent narrator.
For me, the best character is the City of London
Without alcohol the stratagem would flounder, trim the sexual abuse and the chapters would be less, without repeat paragraphs like Carlyle whining about the declining standards of UK newspapers this book would be blessedly shorter. And without packing in umpteen suspects from the Prime Minister to residents of greater London, this whole book would not have dragged on and could have been more effective.
“When the body of journalist Duncan Brown is found in the back of a rubbish truck, Inspector John Carlyle is thrown into the middle of a scandal that threatens to expose the corrupt links between the police, the political establishment and the hugely powerful Zenger media group.
Hunting down Brown’s killer, Carlyle finds himself going head-to-head with his nemesis, Trevor Miller. A former police officer turned security adviser to the Prime Minister, Miller has dirty money in his pockets and other people’s blood on his hands. Untouchable until now, he is prepared to kill again to protect his position – having failed once already to dispose of Carlyle he is not prepared to slip up again.”
Quote “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he was psychopathically charismatic or anything like that. He didn’t set out to use his powers for evil. More likely his powers were no match for the evil he chanced upon.” Chapter 34, Fi’s Story >1:59:07
That quotation from Bram Lawson’s wife Fiona appears to be a fair assessment of her husband’s character but is it accurate? Bram made one faulty decision which started the ball rolling over and over until it rolled into a brick wall, and the wall started to topple.
The unforced yet headlong pace of this novel has to be read to be understood. It is full-on right from the opening line: “London, 12.30 p.m. She must be mistaken, but it looks exactly as if someone is moving into her house.”
Author Louise Candlish has the knack of subverting expectations, making her characters do things I hadn’t anticipated, and making them believable. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong in a progression of events at 91 Trinity Avenue in the London suburb of Alder Rise where property values are in the millions.
In this transfixing drama of house fraud and so much more, the main players are Bram and Fiona; their two young sons; would-be homeowners David and Lucy Vaughan; neighbour Merle; Mike and Wendy; the website of crime podcast The Victim.
Told by Fiona (Fi) and Bram, their retrospective sides of the story nearly overlap yet never quite converge, building a strong sense of unease. With foreboding I followed their newly separated, and prickly, domestic rituals with bird’s nest custody arrangements. I almost shouted at the book a couple of times—I can’t reveal why—as deception and indiscretion insinuated themselves into the story.
Woven through the redolent London background are family moments, some more heart-wrenching than others, before a nasty turn of events and the final dénouement. While the catastrophic narrative honour goes to Bram, the overarching theme is home ownership and who legally owns the house. Apparently it is, or was, a possibility that this kind of deed transfer could happen.
“Our House” is the best crime book I’ve read this year, well crafted and written with an ending which sends out shock waves. If you like incomparable award-winning psychological thrillers, I urge you to read this one.
Five Star Rating
About the Author:
Louise Candlish is the author of eleven previous novels, including “The Sudden Departure of the Frasers”, “The Swimming Pool” and the international bestseller “Since I Don’t Have You”. Louise studied English at University College London and worked as an advertising copywriter and art book editor before writing fiction. She lives in South London with her husband and teenage daughter. “Those People” is her next book. Author websitehttp://www.louisecandlish.com/
but I love and respect this book. It deserves the status of a 21st century classic. Narrated by numerous voices from Birdie Bell to Elodie Winslow, I was immersed in a mystery with twists and ghostly turns, fine art and emotional lives of several families over two centuries of turmoil and heartbreak.
The fluid nature of ‘The Clockmaker’s Daughter’is similar
to the ebb and flow of a river. In this case the Thames, and the reader should move with the tide, not fight against it. Accept each individual character and enjoy their allotted time in the book, otherwise an undercurrent could pull you down into reader malaise which may cause you to miss the best bits.
Human emotions are the core of this novel
but some criticism seems to be there are too many characters. Why? The classics and modern historical fiction have loads of characters. I think Kate Morton truly loved her cast of players and couldn’t bear to trim them to fit a mere trifle like a word limit. Each person has a purpose!
Perhaps the 21st century reader has difficulty due to
a shorter attention span?
less retentive memory?
reading skills only suitable for glancing at a small screen?
Tick all of the above √ (Sorry, just had to lecture…)
My friends know that rarely, if ever, do I reread a book
because once read, never forgotten – well, almost – but ‘The Clockmaker’s Daughter’ is the first book in years which I have felt compelled to reread. It touched on many threads in my own familial life and exposed feelings and understandings. In one chapter, I had to stop because the emotion became too much as I recalled several elements of my own family’s journey through life and death. My grandfather was an early 20th century artist, talented and struggling to make a living, perhaps similar to Edward Radcliffe.
Triggered by outstanding writing, we pour our own sentiments into a story
and Kate Morton succeeded in cracking my heart just enough to make the sadness bearable. Then the atmosphere lightens, a scene change like a stroll in springtime.
“In the depths of a 19th-century winter, a little girl is abandoned on the streets of Victorian London. She grows up to become in turn a thief, an artist’s muse, and a lover. In the summer of 1862, shortly after her eighteenth birthday, she travels with a group of artists to a beautiful house on a bend of the Upper Thames. Tensions simmer and one hot afternoon a gunshot rings out. A woman is killed, another disappears, and the truth of what happened slips through the cracks of time. It is not until over a century later, when another young woman is drawn to Birchwood Manor, that its secrets are finally revealed.”
Oh, secrets revealed
but there are a couple of unanswered questions. This is where a keen reader sees the clever intertextuality and works it out for themselves from the vignettes Kate Morton has polished and refined for us. Even down to the defining chapter headings—or didn’t anyone notice that. This story is a puzzle, it appeared to be disparate people until I followed the signposts, keeping observations tucked away for future reference. Gradually events join up, different eras are linked, a genealogical timeline exposed.
Here’s my incomplete list of characters…
Elodie Winslow, modern archivist
Tip, her great-uncle
Handmade leather satchel
Birdie Bell, young pickpocket
Lily Millington, pickpocket and artist’s muse
Mrs Mack, purveyor of crime
Martin Mack, thug
Pale Joe, sickly boy
Fairy folk tale
Edward Radcliffe, artist and portrait painter
Frances Brown, his fiancée
Lucy Radcliffe, his sister
Thurston Holmes, unpleasant friend
Ada Lovegrove, sad student
Juliet, newspaper columnist
Radcliffe Blue, diamond
There are beautiful paragraphs
which I would love to reproduce, although being taken out of context would ruin the impact. There’s grimy poverty stricken London, the joy of wildflowers, the thunder in a storm, a fascinating country manor, the love between Edward Radcliffe and Lily Millington, the dubious behaviour of their friends and family culminating in a shocking moment followed by the ultimate conclusion.
I won’t divulge crucial plot points and
my recommendation is to read ‘The Clockmaker’s Daughter’ without preconceived notions. Unlike reviewer Caroline E. Tew, Crimson Staff Writer of The Harvard Crimson, I did not expect a resolution that is literal, practical or easy to digest. Have a pinch of romance in your soul.
There’s a 12-Minute PDF Blog summary out there which should have a Spoiler Alert. It reports inaccurately on a clue, and pretty much gives the game away. I am glad I did NOT read it prior to reading the novel. It exposes the plot in a clinical fashion, ruining the atmosphere and skimming across Kate Morton’s beautiful prose and depth of feeling.
On the other hand
an exceptionally good review of ‘The Clockmaker’s Daughter’ by Jo Casebourne of The Reading Project will give you well-rounded insights into the story and characters in chronological order from 1860s to present day.
I have reproduced a chapter vignette (below) to show a scene of top-notch character writing. But first, let me ask you to ponder this key question, answerable after reading the book. Out of the four woman, mother, sister, lover, fiancée, who do you think loved Edward Radcliffe the most?
Leonard Gilbert, ex-soldier, researching the Radcliffe family. Lucy Radcliffe, now elderly yet still sharp.
“The cottage was pleasantly dark inside, and it took a moment for his gaze to arrive at Lucy Radcliffe in the midst of all her treasures. She had been expecting him only a minute before, but clearly had more important things to do than sit in readiness. She was engrossed in her reading, posed as still as marble in a mustard-coloured armchair, a tiny figure in profile to him, a journal in her hand, her back curved as she peered through a magnifying glass at the folded paper. A lamp was positioned on a small half-moon table beside her and the light it cast was yellow and diffuse. Underneath it, a teapot sat beside two cups.
‘Miss Radcliffe,’ he said.
‘Whatever do you think, Mr Gilbert?’ She did not look up from her journal. ‘It appears that the universe is expanding.’
‘Is it?’ Leonard took off his hat. He couldn’t see a hook on which to hang it, so he held it in two hands before him.”
Just received a brand new copy of ‘Lethal White’ the fourth volume in Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike detective series. We all know that J K Rowling actually writes it but what I didn’t know was that this hardback edition is large and heavy!
The cover has a nice grungy look and, no, I did not skid it across the tarmac.
It was difficult to photograph because the bronze lettering flared but I wanted to illustrate the interesting trend of books getting bigger again.
I can’t help wondering how it will compare to previous adventures. The book blurb reads “The most epic Robert Galbraith novel yet, ‘Lethal White’ is both a gripping mystery and a page-turning next instalment in the ongoing story of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott.”
I will post a review when I’ve ploughed my way through 647 pages.
With a knowing smile, this Victorian-style book of manners is reminiscent of the period of parenting when misbehaving children were given orders and told dire consequences would ensue if they did not obey. Despite warnings, when a child in this book ignores an instruction, there is an aftermath of great magnitude.
In “A Garden of Lilies: Improving Tales for Young Minds – by Prudence A Goodchild” children’s author and illustrator Judith Rossell has produced an atmospherically illustrated and tightly written volume. She has also mastered the art of a left-right jab, hitting with swift endings which leave the reader breathless.
Each punchy short story closes with a judicious moral. For example, Isadora daydreamed too much during her chores. One day she daydreamed while idly brushing her hair. Let’s just say she didn’t get to finish the task. “Moral: For hair that’s glossy, clean and bright, Two hundred strokes, both morn and night”.
After Isadora’s tale, there is what appears to be a lovely page entitled “Care of the Hair” with a recipe for making Soft Soap which “…will improve both the texture and colour of the hair” until things get a bit nauseating. Apart from kitchen scraps, the mixture must boil for hours until it forms a clear, thick jelly.
Basically the stories are about kids being kids and the 21st century reader should see the endings for what they are – a sample of Victorian etiquette and psychology which we would not dream of using on children today. Right? Okay, explain that to your child and laugh.
This slim book is approximately sixty pages (with attractive binding and colour plates) and scattered throughout are “Interesting Facts” and helpful hints like An Economical Recipe for a Plain Cake, A Useful Compass, Parlour Games and my personal favourite, An Album of Sea-Weeds. I will work on drying and pressing seaweed during my next holiday! Hmm, would seaweed smell like that starfish I once brought home?
In closing, I will give a shout-out to Mr Lindon of Woolloongabba, Queensland (Page 45) who grew a giant marrow. I think he must have read the book’s suggestion To Grow a Giant Marrow which signifies “A Garden of Lilies” is indeed a versatile volume!
I cannot give you a childproof safety rating but I think it is suitable for a sliding age scale and my own rating is 5-star.
Judith Rossell — Biography
Judith Rossell is the multi-award-winning author-illustrator of the bestselling Stella Montgomery series (Withering-by-Sea, Wormwood Mire, A Garden of Lilies and forthcoming Wakestone Hall). Judith has written thirteen books and illustrated more than eighty, and her work has been published in UK, US, Germany and translated into more than twenty languages. Before beginning her career in children’s books, Judith worked as a government scientist (not a mad scientist, a normal kind of scientist) and also for a cotton-spinning company (which made threads for T-shirts, denim jeans, mops and teabag strings). Judith lives in Melbourne, Australia with a cat the size of a walrus.
ACCLAIM FOR WITHERING-BY-SEA AND WORMWOOD MIRE:
Indie Awards – Winner 2015, Shortlisted 2017
Australian Book Industry Awards – Winner 2015, Shortlisted 2017
CBCA Awards – Honour Book 2015, Notable Book 2017
Davitt Awards – Winner 2015, Shortlisted 2017
Prime Minister’s Literary Awards – Shortlisted 2015
ABA Booksellers’ Choice Awards – Shortlisted 2017
Australian Book Design Awards – Shortlisted 2017
Aurealis Awards – Shortlisted 2015
London winter 1880, Limehouse, and chorus girls are disappearing from music halls in Paradise, the criminal precinct run with ruthless efficiency by the ferocious and opium addicted Lady Ginger aka The Lady.
Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders Published 2013 (First book in the Kitty Peck series) A novel by Kate Griffin
Seventeen-year-old Kitty Peck, a seamstress at The Gaudy, is summoned by The Lady and blackmailed to perform a hair-raising act every night to uncover vital information about the missing girls. Kitty is taunted by The Lady who withholds the truth about her family, particularly her beloved brother Joey. Before long Kitty becomes the talk of London with her daring show and the plan begins to work. Gradually she’s drawn into the world of high society ‘toffs’ and embroiled in depravity and murder. With only her two friends Peggy and set painter Lucca for support, Kitty is shocked to find herself facing an adversary more horrifying than The Lady crime baron.
First of all, the pace and atmosphere is superb throughout the books. Immediately I was right in the action and swept along on a very dark ride. The characters evolve nicely and flesh out into interesting and tortured human beings who find themselves in rather bizarre circumstances. They have subplots with much to hide, emotions seesaw as their personal history gradually unfolds.
There’s a heavy dose of Cockney slang which, due to an Anglophile father, I picked up quickly enough. Some reveals are to be expected but one took me by surprise! The novels have adult content. However, don’t expect true romance. It’s the Queen Victoria version of an action movie. Grim, grimy, cold, damp London of the 19th century is a backdrop to dirty deeds done by black-hearted people and Kitty must keep her wits about her to survive. The endings are cliff-hangers which lead into each book.
Kitty Peck and the Child of Ill-Fortune Published 2015 (Second book in the Kitty Peck series) A novel by Kate Griffin
Due to spoilers, I cannot reveal too much about Book Two or Three. Certain text in the following review has been taken from the book blurb:
London’s East End, March 1881 and Kitty Peck, a spirited but vulnerable young woman, is the reluctant heiress to Paradise, the criminal empire previously overseen by the formidable Lady Ginger aka The Lady. Kitty is now The Lady, with all that entails; servants, buildings, stock, music halls and vicious crime barons. Far from the colour and camaraderie of the music hall where Kitty had been working, this newfound power brings isolation and uncertainty, and a disdainful lawyer Telferman.
Desperate to reconnect with Joey, her estranged brother, Kitty travels to Paris with Lucca. She is unable to refuse the request of a handsome stranger to take a child back to London. Within days of their return, it’s clear she has been followed by someone, and this someone is determined to kill the child and anyone who stands in their way…starting with Kitty.
There are mesmerizing and harrowing scenes throughout this book which serve to shape Kitty and her world. More of the secondary characters emerge and betrayal rears its ugly head. Tension builds as Kitty nears the deadline to meet the other Barons of London, merchants, jewellers, bankers, the controlling elite who are rotten to the core. Will they break her and destroy the Paradise she has inherited?
Kitty Peck and the Daughter of Sorrow Published 2017 (Third book in the Kitty Peck series) A novel by Kate Griffin
London, the hot summer of 1881, and the streets of Limehouse are thick with coal smoke and opium; and Kitty Peck is choking on the ever-present bitterness of evil. At eighteen Kitty has inherited Paradise, she is The Lady of a sprawling criminal empire on the banks of the Thames. Determined to do things differently from the fearsome Lady Ginger, she now realises that the past casts a menacing and treacherous shadow.
Plagued by city heat, haunted by a terrible secret and facing more deaths, Kitty is stalked by a criminal league intent on humiliation and destruction; she should never go out alone. But she’s ready to fight for the future of everyone she cares for and more. Including journalist Sam Collins?
Always difficult to review books with clever twists and turns one cannot expose. ‘Descriptive’ and ‘gripping’ hardly does them justice. Sense of place, POV and clothing are beautifully transcribed. There is one minor point I noticed when reading––there is little mention of food. Tea and gin are drunk habitually, and champagne is used as a lever, but food is not often consumed. No matter, they are gritty stories which had me on the edge of my seat. While it is not an era I would like to inhabit, I can highly recommend this series with a shiny five star rating.
To be concluded in Book Four – Kitty Peck and the Parliament of Shadows – Coming July 2019
“Even though Paradise was riddled with rot, I reckoned I could make it a cleaner place for the poor types who came with the dirty trades. I could make them all love me, I thought. I was wrong about that. I’ve been wrong about so much.” My book review to be advised.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kate Griffin was born within the sound of Bow bells, making her a true-born Cockney. She has worked as an assistant to an antiques dealer, a journalist for local newspapers and now works for The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. “Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders”, Kate’s first book, won the Stylist / Faber crime writing competition and she has written other genres. Kate’s maternal family lived in Victorian Limehouse and her grandmother told her many stories of life around the docks. Kate lives in St Albans, north of London.