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Book 186: Devoured by D. E. Meredith

Book 186: Devoured (Hatton and Roumande #1).
Author: D. E. Meredith, 2010.
Genre: Historical Mystery. Victorian England. Forensics.
Other Details: Hardback. 319 pages.

London in 1856 is gripped by a frightening obsession. The specimen-collecting craze is growing, and discoveries in far-off jungles are reshaping the known world in terrible and unimaginable ways. When the glamorous Lady Bessingham is found murdered in her bedroom, surrounded by her vast collection of fossils and tribal masks, Professor Adolphus Hatton and his morgue assistant Albert Roumande are called in to examine the crime scene – and the body.

In the new and suspicious world of forensics and autopsy examinations, Hatton and Roumande are the best. But the crime scene is not confined to one room. In their efforts to help the infamous Scotland Yard detective Inspector Adams track down the Lady's killer, Hatton and Roumande uncover a trail of murders connected to a packet of seditious letters that, if published, would change the face of society and religion irrevocably.
- synopsis from UK publisher's website.

There were a number of points that drew me to this novel; including a pair of memorable main characters, the development of early forensic methods, and the clash between science and religion. Yet despite these and a well realised Victorian setting there was something about the novel that didn't quite work for me as a murder mystery. I found that there was a lack of dramatic tension despite the mounting body count. This lack of tension was also evident in how the clash between science and religion was depicted despite the alarming concerns expressed by some characters.

The saving grace though was Adolphus Hatton and his morgue assistant Albert Roumande, who were fascinating characters, even if like their modern CSI counterparts on telly they tend to be trying to be detectives rather than assisting them. Overall the good points swung me in favour of checking out of the library the second book in the series.

D.E. Meredith's page on 'Devoured' - contains link to first chapter, history of forensics and other material.
Tags: historical fiction, murder mystery
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