Monday, August 22, 2016

BY GASLIGHT BY STEVEN PRICE - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is By Gaslight by Steven Price. Thanks so much to Penguin Random House for sending me an ARC of this book for an honest review, as always, all opinions are my own.


Before I get too far into this review, I will just kind of preface this with saying that I don't really read a lot of historical fiction. Or just a lot of books set in pre 1900s. Most books I read are set in fairly recent times. That being said, I do enjoy the occasional historical fiction. And this book has a murder mystery in it as well so I figured that would help entice me.

Basically, this is the story of two-ish main characters, William Pinkerton and Adam Foole and their time in London in the late 1880s.

William is an American detective who has come to London in search of a man known as Edward Shade. Shade was supposedly killed during the Civil War, but William's father, Allan, was sure he was still alive. After Allan's sudden passing, William discovers notes and writings by his father, leads to where to find Shade. He is able to trace Shade to London, more specifically an old accomplice, Charlotte Reckitt. However, as the chase with Charlotte heats up, she catches on to William and jumps over a bridge, later found in pieces floating the Thames river. The detective works with the local police force to try and solve the mystery of finding Charlotte's killer.

Adam is a crafty thief who never gets caught. He runs a legitimate emporium and lives with Molly, a young girl he rescued from squalor, and Fludd, an ex-con he freed from prison. He was once working a job with Charlotte in Africa, smuggling diamonds, and the two grew quite close on the mission. Despite the fact that he hasn't seen her for years, Charlotte sends him a letter asking for his help, and he decides to meet her at her home. However, when he arrives, he is quickly told that the woman in question is, regretfully, deceased.

As Adam and William work together to try and solve the murder, old secrets emerge and new alliances are shattered. William thinks that Adam knows more than he's letting on, especially about Shade. And Adam finds that William doesn't have the purest of intentions.

In terms of writing, I enjoyed this book. It was written by someone who is known as a poet, and you can definitely tell. The story flows seamlessly, even though there are countless flashbacks throughout. There were a few times when things were a little unclear, but I think that was just part of the story, to try and confuse the reader as to who is who.

My biggest issue with this book is the length. It says 600 pages on Goodreads, and maybe my ARC is a little bit off, but my copy clocked in at 731 pages, all in with the epilogue. And that's a lot. I do feel like there were some things that could have been shortened, and maybe they were cut out in the final book, but this length almost made it feel like reading it was a chore. The only way I was able to finish it in four days was because I forced myself to get to a certain point each day. If I didn't, I would have been reading for at least a week. It did take a while to get into, but once I did, I started to like the story more and get more invested in it.

While I enjoyed this book very much, I didn't love it. And I think that may have been because I was expecting too much. This book was very much hyped, not necessarily in my world previously, but in the letter from the editor, as well as the fact that at the publishing house, it was meant to be the one of the most acclaimed and well-talked about books of the year. I just didn't get that vibe. Its a good book, but I'm not sure it is for everyone. Its a lot to read, its a lot to focus on and frankly, the story is not one that everyone will seek out. It was a good book, but the hype was too much, leading me to believe that perhaps I am not the target audience.

There was a lot in this story to follow. Things jumped from present day (at least, for the characters), to the Civil War, to diamond smuggling in South Africa, to the formation of the Pinkerton detective agency. However, not all these are true accounts. I loved the authors note at the very end:
... There are many excellent non-fiction accounts of the early Pinkerton Agency, the Civil War, and the lives of criminals in Victorian London. This is not one of them...
It just kind of summed everything up, because I was definitely curious if these things happened, was there a real Pinkerton Agency? (there was). Was Edward Shade a real man who escaped the clutches of those who wished to capture him? (there was not).

Overall, I did really enjoy the content of this book, regardless of the length. I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for that kind of 1800s police crime, or even just for a change of pace.