The Humbug Murders
by L.J. Oliver
Mass Market Paperback:
Publisher: Pocket Books
Released: October 27, 2015
Source: Review copy from the publisher.
Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Ebenezer Scrooge considers himself a rational man. That changes when he’s visited by the ghost of his former boss and friend, Fezziwig, who warns him that three more will die then Ebenezer himself unless he first gets to the bottom of a vast conspiracy. Scrooge discovers that someone scribbled “HUMBUG” in blood on the floor nearby Fezziwig's body.
Scrooge must clear his name, protect his interests, and find out who killed his last true friend before the “Humbug Killer” strikes again. Scrooge is helped by Charles Dickens, a spunky sidekick named Adelaide, plus the Artful Dodger, Fagin, Belle, and Pickwick.
The Humbug Murders is a suspense novel set in London in 1833 during the week before Christmas. The idea of Scrooge as a detective intrigued me, but I found none of the characters to be likable. Everyone was in it for what they'd gain for themselves and most were also rude and crude. The only way Scrooge was better than the villains was that he objected to women being abused by men. The story was grim and dark. It contained vice, torture, and abuse. Scrooge got beaten and tortured with nearly every attempt he made to uncover the truth, though happily for him it had no lasting effect.
The author made little effort to stay within historical fact. In reality, London streets were slick when damp and crowded even at night. The chase scene between a steam bus and a horse carriage should not have occurred on an empty street. Also, steam buses weren't used as roaming, widely available public transportation in London at that time. They could only go about 24 mph and a horse gallops 25-30 mph on average, so the horses should have won.
In the story, the police acted like detectives (though technically they weren't allowed to do so before 1842), they carried whistles (though they used hand rattles until 1884), and everyone carried a gun (though the police didn't regularly do so at this time). At times, the story seemed like a cross between steam punk fantasy and a gangster movie.
The author also had a dark house with one gas lamp on. That gas lamp was picked up and walked downstairs (even though gas is piped to the lamp, so they couldn't be moved). Police without lamps apparently search the entire house in the dark. These errors are found in the ARC, so they might be fixed in the final edition. But historical errors permeated the story, so don't expect historical accuracy.
There was some bad language. Every sort of vice was encountered, but the sex, drugs, abuse, torture, and violence were not described in gory detail. This book might appeal to fans of dark historical fantasy.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
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