The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

Whicher

“In strictness we are all made when we give way to passion, to prejudice, to vice, to vanity; but if all the passionate, prejudiced and vain people were to be locked up as lunatics, who is to keep the key to the asylum?”

The year is 1860 and a three-year-old boy has been discovered dead with his throat slashed in the outdoor privy of his family’s home. Sent by Scotland Yard Detective-Inspector Jonathan Whicher investigates the murder, which has propelled the English public into a ‘detective-fever.’ The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale takes readers through the investigation, the trials, and aftermath, which would not only change a family, but the world’s fascination with murder mystery forever.

*Review may contain spoilers*

It was a true whodunit.

Back in grand ole Victorian England, the detective was making headlines, literally. Detectives started to pop up in the police force around the 1840s and gained fame by the 60s for their unique abilities. And Jonathan Whicher was considered one of the best.

Much like Sherlock Holmes (who wouldn’t be introduced for another 27 years) Jonathan Whicher observed people and deduced. In one case, he took down a jewel thief when he noticed the lady shift her hands and then proceeded to drop diamond rings in a scuffle. Whicher’s exploits were well known and people respected him.

That is until the death of Francis Saville Kent.

The boy (usually just called Saville) was three when he was murdered in June 1860. Many believed the crime to have been committed by an outsider, someone, perhaps, slighted by the boy’s father, Samuel Kent, who wasn’t in high graces with the community around Road Hill. Whicher soon dismissed that idea, concluding it had to be someone within the house.

Whicher would complete a full investigation, even accusing someone, but when he couldn’t provide enough evidence, and his invasive actions toward the family privacy became public knowledge, he was scorned by all and cast away though, years later, his suspicions were proven right.

I didn’t really know there was an origin story for the first murder mystery and I really didn’t know that it had to do with the murder of a child, but, hey, look at me, learning things.

There’s an episode of Deadly Women about this crime, and though I’d watched it years ago I knew who the culprit was though Summerscale does a lovely job at hinting and keeping the focus on that particular person in a sly way.

At first, I was intimidated because before the book starts there’s a list of characters, and basically everyone is on it. Not only are the Kent family members and servants listed, so are town villagers, local police, Scotland Yard detectives, and people in neighboring towns.

I took the list with a grain of salt, knowing not everyone would be that vital and concentrated on the major players. Which led to my biggest problem: the book title.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher is a fantastic title, oozing in Victorian tone and appearance. The language, with the information gathered, sends readers back, with footnotes explaining the justice system of the time. But, I have to ask, if these are Mr. Whicher’s suspicions, then where is he?

It’s not like he’s randomly missing, but only appears when the story needs him to, like a secondary character and not a main one. And, yes, there’s limited information about the guy, but if the book is going to share his name I would want him to have a definite presence. It reminds me of Harry Houdini in The Witch of Lime Street and the problems I faced then.

And his ‘suspicions’ are only that because he can’t find adequate evidence to support it. Assumptions or even notes would be better phrasing since suspicions are what the public had when playing detective themselves when the case became cold.

It also doesn’t help that the book overshadows Whicher, but it feels more like the suspect’s than his and I wish Summerscale had taken it into account.

I don’t know, I like the title, but I don’t. Schmee.

Summerscale likes to list things and especially about tedious information. The two instances that stuck out most were when she’s explaining who is who, listing their name, occupation, and age despite the character chart and then with the prices of the furniture sold when the Kent family moves away from Road Hill, listing every single item she possibly could.

It was moments like those that overshadowed the fantastic research regarding Whicher, the Kents and history of the judicial system in Victorian England.

I enjoy Summerscale’s research abilities and admire the trouble she goes to to include every little detail, but the overall effect on the subject of murder mystery was the true selling point of the entire story with Whicher and the murderer as the icing on the cake.

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery

lost

“They found three more just like it, two days after the first – four sets of bones in all. Each was a full skeleton, kept whole and shrouded in burlap.”

When Shannan Gilbert disappeared in 2010 she’d run through the Oak Beach community screaming for her life. Though police were called nothing was done. It wasn’t until seven months later, and with the discovery of four bodies nearby, that her story, and the other women’s, were finally told. In Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery Robert Kolker explores the world of online prostitution and detailing the lives of the victims who were more than their profession; they were someone’s daughter, sister, and friend, and the impact their deaths had on their loved ones.

*Review may contain spoilers*

For a mid-year resolution, I decided I needed to read more non-fiction, or at least, start reading some true crime. I listen to podcasts and watch documentaries on the topic, but I rarely pick up any books. I think it’s because I read non-fiction so slowly and just have no idea where to start, staring at all the options and feeling overwhelmed, but after searching a bit I found this one and decided to go for it.

I believe I heard about these murders when the fifth anniversary of the discovery came up two years ago. It was either on television or an article online, but I remembering something about Long Island and multiple victims.

In total there were 10 victims found (the police do not believe Gilbert’s death was related) but the total could be up to 17. The murderer was never apprehended and the case is still open.

Because it’s not closed certain information isn’t available to the public (or newer information as this book was published in 2013) a fact Kolker should have mentioned.

Focusing on five of the women Kolker proves his researching skills by diving deep into their lives. Each woman is given well-deserved time in the spotlight, from their childhoods to the last nights they were ever seen alive.

The first “book” is dedicated solely to this, with some information about Oak Beach, but it isn’t until the second “book” that the crime scene, potential suspects, and the investigation become involved.

If I had to pinpoint the main problem it’d be the structure of this book.

For example, the first “book” with the introductions was fine, a bit choppy with more fluff than necessary, but getting to know the victims was good as it humanized them.

Thing was, their chapters weren’t completed in one go, stopping at random parts, in order to introduce a new woman. Then when the cycle would start again I’d have to flip back to remind myself of who was who. It only worsened when Kolker decided to use their call names for later chapters, despite wanting to avoid the prostitute stereotype, in an attempt for variety.

During the second “book” the most trivial things were introduced, such as Facebook drama, useless characters, and family spats, which became the main focus instead of the actual crimes, which are finally presented, but rarely make a mark.

When investigations began I felt as if something was lacking and I realized it all came down to Kolker’s biased opinions he clearly tries to hide between the lines.

It’s clear Kolker doesn’t like the Long Island police, and there are good reasons for him not too, such as their actions before and during the investigations, and the ridiculous explanations, but his dislike is so present the writing felt fake. This also happens when he writes about potential suspects, focusing mainly on one, and clearly thinks this person did it and isn’t very willing to consider anyone else.

With the way Kolker presents the investigations it’s like he’s telling readers there’s no reason to waste time, convinced that that one suspect did the deed and anyone who thinks otherwise is either an idiot or in cahoots with the Long Island police. Kolker presents it as if he was only required to include the information because his editor forced him to.

Kolker does include a timeline, character sheet, and map of Long Island, but only after the story is finished. There are no pictures of any of the girls or Long Beach either; something that would have helped me identify each of the women and understand the geography of the beach where they were found. The Oak Beach information is nice, but again, it’s littered with spats and Kolker’s underlying opinions.

This book focuses on anything other than the crimes and Kolker doesn’t seem to find fault in that. Had it been presented as an aftermath story instead of an investigative one I would have understood the choices. Instead, it read like a Lifetime movie script, letting the victims be trampled on just to make room for useless drama.

The Angel of Darkness

TheAngelOfDarkness

“There’s plenty of stories that need telling what never get told, just because people can’t bear the listening.”

A year after Doctor Kreizler and his team caught the horrendous child killer, John Beecham, they are brought together again to find a missing child and discover the horrible truth behind the kidnapper in The Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr. Told by Stevie Taggert, one of the many children the Doctor has saved, he recalls the danger, horror, and the personal losses they all faced while catching this dangerous woman.

*Review may contain spoilers*

I told you I’d read the sequel pretty soon.

Published in 1997, three years after The Alienist, The Angel of Darkness is the second book in the Dr. Laszlo Kreizler series. Like it’s predecessor it starts off a few years before the events of the story, but this time it’s told from Stevie Taggert’s point of view. A change I gladly accepted though it did take a bit to get adjusted.

The upside to having Stevie as a narrator is he’s able to let readers into the personal life and everyday activities of Doctor Kreizler while allowing insight into the underbelly world of New York City in 1897.

As I said, adjusting to Stevie took some time, but the saving grace was that compared to Moore, Stevie doesn’t waste time by asking, “what” a million times over. If he doesn’t understand something he either figures it out himself or waits for an explanation from someone. Granted, Moore gets plenty of time to execute this awfulness for most of the book, but at least it wasn’t as the narrator this time.

Carr clearly heard the complaints generated from The Alienist and went about fixing them as best as he could.

First thing fixed was the presence of multiple women, most having been real persons, instead of just Sara. Carr also made sure their presence had some contribution to the story rather than appealing solely to the masses. Granted, Carr stumbled into fan fiction, again, with trying to include all the famously real people, especially during the trial, which only lagged the story instead of helping.

Secondly, his textbook, history lessons were tamed down for the most part. He clearly made the effort to not overwhelm readers and spend more time on other things such as setting and tone, but there were times, especially with paragraphs upon paragraphs of description and information, I felt I’d been tricked into reading a textbook from the 80s.

I felt more comfortable with The Angel of Darkness since I knew the characters and basic plot line, but I didn’t devour it like The Alienist. I wanted to know what was going to happen, but I didn’t need to know right away, which bummed me out.

It’s not as if I feel I wasted my time, but there were too many aspects that took away from the main plot. I wanted more focus on our main villain, Libby Hatch, as there had been on John Beecham in the previous book, but it seemed Hatch was an after thought to the whole affair, as if the famously real people and other mini plots are what really mattered.

Another thing I didn’t much care for was the way Carr hyped up this story to be darker and nastier than John Beecham. Even though Beecham mutilated his victims before publicly displaying them and Hatch just killed hers. Neither is good, but I’ve watched my fair share of Hannibal (2013-2015) and when I think of mutilation it’s that kind. And tell me, can anyone get through the “angel” episode without wanting to vomit?

I suppose Beecham stands out because we got to see the aftermath of his crimes. Hatch was geared toward more physical evidence, which I didn’t mind, but comparing it to Beecham did it unfair justice. The two should have been admired separately not together.

If I have to choose I’d say the thing that kept me going was Stevie. And though I felt Stevie lost his unique vernacular from The Alienist I was so in love with him by the end of this book that I didn’t care. He’s developed into such a modest and sweet character, which made it impossible not to grin during the adorable bits with Clara and Kat, but made me root for him without a second thought. In the end I just wanted to hug him and never let go.

Rumor has it that Carr is writing more of the series and I’m inclined to read it, especially now that 20 years have passed since The Alienist and Angel of Darkness, to see what Carr can cook up next, hopeful I haven’t seen the last of Stevie Taggart.

The Roanoke Girls

roanoke

“You can’t outrun what’s inside of you. You can only acknowledge it, work around it, try and turn it into something better.”

Lane is a Roanoke girl, she’s special, or at least that’s what her grandfather told her until she discovered the secret of the family, of the special women in their family, and ran as far away as possible. In The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel Lane comes back to the family when her cousin Allegra goes missing in the hopes of solving the mystery while facing the dark secret binding the family together so tightly it might just tear everything apart.

*Review may contain spoilers*

I recently moved out of my apartment and finally got around to moving my bed out this past week. While there, a package from Penguin Random House LLC arrived. Now I don’t remember signing up to receive books (my bad!), but I’ll take any coming my way, and was thrilled when The Roanoke Girls slid out onto my lap.

The version I received is an ARC. The book officially came out in March of this year and I don’t know if anything was drastically changed. So, I’d say take this review with a grain of salt, but with that out of the way let’s get to it!

It was probably only a few pages in, and the start of the NOW chapters, that I was hit with familiarity with Girl on the Train and All the Missing Girls coming at full speed. I understand this genre is at the peak right now, but it’s become a bad cut and paste job, trying to skid by plagiarism by changing names and setting.

Though there were differences in The Roanoke Girls Lane is a bad cocktail of the two protagonists from the other books mentioned. On one hand she’s a pretty heavy drunk, though the book doesn’t care to acknowledge it, and that cliché of ‘girl ran away, girl moved to big city, girl forced to come back home, girl thinks she’s better than the ‘hicks’ around her, girl thinks fucking over ex-boyfriend is okay, etc, etc,’ on the other.

And we all know how much I love that cliché.

In some aspect, I felt that Engel was forcing too much character onto Lane because she wanted some sort of substance. And honestly, I didn’t really care. I understood where Lane was coming from without the add-ons and being a complete ass to poor Cooper. In fact, the asshole tendencies were only directed to people who didn’t ever deserve it and I was not okay with it. Especially the women hate toward Sarah; a plot device that does absolutely nothing except trying to confirm women hate each other for trivial things.

The first issue was the whole NOW and THEN chapters. I get the importance of both, for information and moving the plot along, but because of it the whole family ‘secret’ is revealed way too early, untimely disappointing me for being too obvious from the very start and not allowing any room for any surprise of some sort.

Even if the secret hadn’t been revealed so soon the POV chapters of the other Roanoke girls would have been good enough without Lane blurting it out, which might have allowed the Roanoke girl chapters to have more purpose. Besides, all it did was make me wish the entire book concentrated on them instead of just Lane.

The two things from the early reveal I did enjoy were how the conversations during THEN became creepy and ugly, and the character development of Allegra. Sure, she isn’t the greatest option to choose from, but her mental state and outright denial, despite having suffered for years, was handled so well it was clear Engel did her homework. Also, her quirk about carving words into things was a quirk I haven’t seen before and quickly became my favorite thing about her.

I quickly began to suspect Lane felt she was the true victim in the story and not Allegra. Sure, Lane has experienced some messed up shit and deserves empathy, but she has a tendency to put all the focus on her as if competing with Allegra and the other Roanoke girls, claiming to have seen ‘the worse’ of it, though, much like Penelope, Lane gets pretty lucky.

The thought process Lane goes through during the THEN parts are common with people in the situation, but I just wished Lane would acknowledge something about the others situations too during the NOW parts.

Thankfully, she did care about Allegra (though she didn’t really do much until the very end with looking for her) and I felt that was a saving grace for the lack of empathy toward the others.

My overall feeling about this book could be compared to my review of All The Missing Girls, but I liked this one more. Both books have the same tone, but in the end, The Roanoke Girls had more to offer and allowed me time away from Lane with other POV for me to not entirely hate her guts.

Is this going to be a favorite? No. Is it going to be entirely forgettable? No. But I wish this genre could take a break and breath a little. There’s only so much of missing girls and family secrets I can take.

The Alienist

Alienist

“’How does the world look, I often found myself wondering, to a young man whose father is his enemy?”

Prompted by the death of Theodore Roosevelt John Schuyler Moore recalls the investigation he and his colleagues conducted under secrecy, with the help of then Commissioner Roosevelt, in order to capture a child killer. In The Alienist by Caleb Carr readers are thrown into 1896 New York, following the characters as they conduct the beginning of behavioral analysis, and the realization that villains might not be born, but created.

*Review may contain spoilers*

As many of my past reviews have proven I am prone to pick up a book by being intrigued by any means of entertainment. This one is no exception as I watched a trailer for the television series and rented the book out the same day. Two days later I’d read all of it.

Now, I didn’t know much going into this one except it dealt with murder and was set in New York. But as I started reading the gems that were secretly tucked in between the pages pleasantly surprised me and I devoured the story.

First off, this book is basically Criminal Minds gone Victorian with all the behavioral analysis and murder investigations. The main mind behind the whole endeavor is Doctor Laszlo Kreizler, a psychologist, or “alienist” in this context. He enlists Moore, a journalist, Sara Howard, the first woman hired by the police department, and the Isaacson brothers, who’ve helped remove corrupt officers from the force, to help him solve the case.

The crimes involve preteen boys (forced into prostitution and to dress as girls for clients) found murdered with their eyes cut out and brutally dismembered. Kreizler and his team are faced with trying to solve the crime with new, and considered abnormal, technology while faced with a public who’d rather push the murders under the rug and be done with it.

Carr studied history in school and his knowledge of the time period, and of the famous few that pepper the pages, is crystal clear from the beginning. He tells readers things they might have never known. Such as, children were considered miniature adults and were thought capable of taking care of themselves. Or that brothels would dress boys up as girls, going as far as giving them new names, just to please customers.

Though I appreciated the history tidbits there were moments when it felt pretty textbook.

If anything I felt that Carr wanted this story (or mainly his characters) to become the new Sherlock Holmes and company. Kreizler has that erratic behavior like Holmes but takes note of the feelings of those around him. He’s much more human. And I don’t mind that comparison, but I believe Carr thinks Watson is a complete idiot if I’m assuming Moore is to fill that role.

Moore is said to be a pretty good crime reporter though the man is completely oblivious to the tiniest detail. If I recalled every time he asks, ‘what’ or ‘tell me, goddamn it,’ I’d be describing most of this book. Even with what little insight he gives to the case it isn’t all that good yet I’m supposed to believe that Moore is invaluable to the case. Also, he can’t seem to fend for himself all that well either. He gets beat up plenty just because he doesn’t have common sense. It’s like he’s playing Parkour then appears stupefied at having fallen down.

I didn’t feel any real attachment to the other characters though I admired some of Sara’s spunk and Kreizler’s household staff. And though I liked most of the moments with the famously real people it started feeling more like a fan fiction than anything else (looking at you Morgan.)

The writing wasn’t anything super phenomenal and Carr seemed to have trouble deciding what kind of style he wanted. At some points it was very elegant, Victorian lingo then others it sounded like teenagers in school trying to solve a math problem, then strict textbook at the major history parts. It didn’t really bother me all that much, but it didn’t do anything for the story either.

Carr definitely wanted to be thorough with his information so much so it dragged the story down just when the climax was occurring. Again, it didn’t really bother me all that much, but I wouldn’t have minded only knowing the most vital things.

As for the ending, I knew it wasn’t going to be all I wanted, but Carr took so much time for action that the victory of solving the case was lost in the mix. And the sweet, little cleanup of the whole thing was meh and, again, for the third time, didn’t do much for the plot.

But, then again, I thought the culprit was going to be someone we’d come to know for a sudden twist, which just goes to show how well my thinking was for this entire thing.

Overall I enjoyed this book immensely and am planning on reading the sequel pretty soon. I would recommend this to those who enjoy shows such as Criminal Minds and even Law and Order to read this. Or, if not that, Luke Evans is in the television series and he’s kind of a babe so do it for him, eh?

The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World

HH

“’In those days life was like the race in Alice in Wonderland,’ said F. Scott Fitzgerald, “there was a prize for everyone.’”

Spiritualism popularity rose in the 1920s after the devastating death toll of World War I and the grieving sought a way to make peace with themselves and those they lost. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, was the biggest supporter, but there were those who claimed psychics were frauds; no one so much so as the famed magician Harry Houdini. The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher explores Houdini’s biggest challenge and the impact it would have in the world of Spiritualism.

*Review may contain spoilers*

I’ve always found Harry Houdini to be a bit intimidating. It might just be that every picture I saw growing up of him was either sporting him in chains, hanging in the air by his ankles in a straitjacket, or in his underwater chamber. I concluded he wasn’t a man to be messed with.

I’ve known inklings of this story thanks to previous readings, but I never desired to actually learn about it. All I knew was that Houdini proved that psychics were frauds and that it was headline news at the time. I’d never heard of Margery though. So when the best friend raved about this book I was intrigued and borrowed it.

Plus, the hardcover glows in the dark.

The first thing that got me was that Spiritualism was an actual religion. Like, Doyle was somewhat of the first disciple of it and it became a huge phenomenon in Europe and the US. For the most part, I’d never learned that and I suppose it’s so interesting because, growing up with pretty heavy religionists, the whole concept of talking to the dead is blasphemy.

Spiritualists were in fact condoned and, in some ways, hated by the church and shunned. But, they kept on with their new religion and eventually, the world became enamored as well. People became obsessed and psychics were in high demand.

Which, of course, led to scams and their artists. Most of the time frauds could be exposed pretty well, but when Margery came around specialists needed to be brought in. Houdini was one of them and his motivation was simply to stop people from scamming others out of hundreds of dollars.

He was also the only sensible one when it came to Margery.

The most unusual thing about Margery was that she was young, beautiful, and quite the seductress and/or actress depending on point of view. For the men that came to see if she was a legit psychic she was new and invigorating. In fact, two of the men on the council were attracted to her with one starting an intimate relationship with her.

She was polite and seemed, to everyone, incapable or too pure to lie about her gifts. In fact, she was deemed the one who would solidify Spiritualism and carve the path for those like her.

It was said that Margery and Houdini were quite civil toward one another before their first séance and enjoyed company when dealing with anything other than Spiritualism. But, after he denounced her, they had a falling out, which was understandably inevitable (though many believe it was partly in due to Margery trying to seduce him when she realized he wasn’t convinced like the others.)

Now, David Jaher certainly did his homework for this book. With over 400 pages it’s oozing with information from Doyle, Spiritualism, the members of the Scientific American, and more.

Overall, it’s a lot to take in.

I appreciate that Jaher researched the heck out of this, but I would have been okay with knowing only the most vital information pertaining to the story I was promised. In fact, Houdini and Margery don’t even meet until page 230.

The chapters are pretty short and concentrate on a single topic, which is nice considering I read non-fiction at a snails pace and wasn’t too overwhelmed, but there were times I felt the story was dodging the actual plot just to play it safe and make sure certain information was included.

Houdini and Margery may be the title characters, but they were sent to the sidelines to make room for everyone, and everything else for most of the book. The only time the book ever felt solely about them was near the end when given information about what happened after Houdini denounced Margery.

Thankfully, and as if he knew I needed something, there were some pretty priceless Houdini quotes that cracked me up and helped keep the story amusing:

   “She repeatedly told him [Houdini] about her twelve-year-old and how she did not want him to grow up and read that his mother was a fraud.

   “Then don’t be a fraud,” he advised.”

And my absolute favorite of all time:

    “Now, spirit fizzy fizzy.”

I enjoyed the story quite a bit, but as it was hard to determine whom the book was supposed to be about I couldn’t love it whole-heartedly. If anything else it proved me right that Houdini was not a man to be trifled with.

The Sport of Kings

Sport

“Everything comes from everything and nothing escapes commonality.”

Henry Forge wants to build an empire from horse racing in Paris, Kentucky. Coming from a long line of farmers Henry hopes to change their legacy with the help of his daughter, Henrietta. But when Allmon Shaughnessy, an African American from Cincinnati, starts working for the family they’re all forced to see the wrongs they’ve committed in The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan.

*Review may contain spoilers*

Ironically I started this book on the day of Preakness and took a break from reading to watch. I’ve never been too intrigued about horse racing, but my dad sure knows his stuff. He explained how the betting process works, the age limit to compete, and about the incredible feat of winning the Triple Crown.

In a way, it gave me a little insight into this book and helped prepare me for some of what I might read about, but it also led me to wish for more than what I would be given.

The Sport of Kings is promoted as a book about horse racing. But, about 15%, and I’m really ball parking it here, is actually dedicated to it. It’s like watching Seabiscuit (2003) and the title character only being in it for 10 minutes.

This became exceptionally clear when 100 pages in nothing pertaining to that exact plot point had begun. Instead, it was 80 pages of ‘The Forge family has a legacy’ and ‘John Henry is a racist’ and ‘Henry’s cousin jerks him off and that’s okay for some reason….’

Morgan’s first flaw was setting. I knew it was in Kentucky, but there was no mention of a year. There was talk of cars, but other than that I had to guess. I settled for the early 1900s, the latest possibility being the 30s due to what little technology was shown, but 80 pages in, Morgan flung out the 1950s to my utter confusion.

The book is split into 6 sections with interludes (which are pretty much context she couldn’t fit into the actual story.) The first 3 sections are dedicated to getting to know the ‘main’ characters: Henry, Henrietta, and Allmon. I say ‘main’ because I know more about secondary, and even third characters than I do about these three.

Henry is portrayed as growing up as a disappointment to his racist father. And if I needed proof that John Henry was a racist, oh, I’m given mounds of it. So much so the rants and ideas just repeat themselves into endless paragraphs that span over three or more pages. I appreciate what she tries to do, but droning on and on feeling more like a sermon than anything (and yes there is a ranting sermon as well in this book.)

It’s like Morgan is allergic to the tab button. And these rants continue on, with every character, paragraphs upon paragraphs, some of them holding little gems of brilliant writing, but mostly supporting useless nonsense that has nothing to the damn plot, which doesn’t even start until page 180 and that’s me being nice.

Another issue is Morgan cannot, for the life of herself, decide which POV she wants to dominate. First, we get third person, then it goes to first person, then second person. Yep, starts using ‘you’ and just assumes I’ll know who’s talking. She also does this whole scriptwriting style when, well, whenever she likes because it never becomes clear as to why she does it.

I understand struggling with switching from past to present tense without realizing it, but I cannot understand the need for all POV possibilities to be used when it clearly does nothing except frustrate readers.

Overall, all the characters are awful, and I’m not just talking about the blatant racism. They’re not even close to being two dimensional, let alone one, and their so-called ‘desires’ in life are forced upon them with desperation. For example, Henrietta likes the act of sex and doesn’t ever give any inclination to wanting a relationship. Then, when Allmon appears, she ‘loves his body’ and claims he’s the only thing she ‘wants out of life.’

Morgan spends so much time giving background for each ‘main’ character and everyone they come in contact with that by after page 300 she realizes nothing has happened and gives a soap opera ending in the hopes of making it thrilling and unforeseeable.

It doesn’t.

In my latest review, As Meat Loves Salt, I mentioned how I felt slighted there because Jacob doesn’t pay for any of his crimes. And it happened again in the shape of Henry Forge.

Henry becomes obsessed with horseracing and breeding the ‘perfect’ horse. And, honestly, it’s the only thing that kept me going for most of the book. His insane need to be the best, have the best was intriguing. But, as the story progresses he’s become so obsessed with the idea of ‘perfection’ that he’s allowed the mindset to control his own family life.

It’s gross and he never pays for it. Well, legally anyway. And Morgan just writes it off as a sort of consensual thing at the time just to keep the storm calm.

This book needed to be 200 pages shorter. I don’t know if there was an editor involved, but I can’t imagine how long that first draft must have been if this was the end result.