After having read the first book in the Victorian Gay Detective series, I was looking forward to diving into this one. However, right from the start it was a struggle just to read it, and by the time I got to the 30% mark, I decided not to finish it. I’ll explain why, but first, the blurb:
Colm Kelly, a popular constable, is happy to be a big fish in his little pond of an Irish village—until his secret sin is revealed by his best friend. Overnight, his happy life is ruined. He loses his job, and even his family, and flees to England.
Colm might get another chance in London as an inquiry agent. His first job: watch the honorable Q.R. Marrill, the next heir apparent to a fortune, who lives under a cloud of family deaths. It’s unclear if Marrill is the perpetrator or the next victim of a killer who has struck before. Colm must discover the truth, and the best way to do that is to act as the man’s valet, a menial job Colm is ill-suited for. Worse, the young gentleman is nothing like Colm’s image of an aristocrat and more like his idea of perfection. He has no desire to ruin his life again with unwelcome passion.
The bookish Quade Marrill, fourth son of a wealthy landowner, has led a contented solitary life in London separate from his family. But as his family members die one by one, he becomes heir. Even as he mourns his dead brothers, uncle, and cousin, he wonders if the deaths were more than bad luck. Someone sinister might be on the hunt, and he would be the main suspect The only way to discover the truth is to allow the alarmingly intrusive Colm Kelly into his life.
So the premise for this one was intriguing and since I liked the first book, I was interested in finding out what happens next. I would definitely say you don’t have to read the books in order, as they seem completely standalone. The MCs from His American Detective play a secondary role here, but in the part that I read, their journey doesn’t seem integral to the plot.
But my problem here lies solely in the style of writing, and it was too much of a slog for me to continue. There’s a disjointedness to this book that really doesn’t work. Sentences don’t flow into each other, random time jumps appear out of nowhere, and dialogue doesn’t flow. It made the reading tedious for me, and I was constantly backtracking to find out if I missed something that would make things make more sense. I hadn’t. It was all on the surface, a skimming from one thing to the next, and I just couldn’t engage. There was no urgency to drive the plot, though there should have been, and it felt like it dragged through information…none of which was enough to pull me into the story.
What I read of the characters I liked. Quade is a bookish “black sheep” of his family, not really fitting in, and he’s made a life for himself doing what he loves. But there’s a pall over his family, as almost all the males have suffered untimely deaths. A lot of people think he’s the murderer, but it’s clear that Quade just isn’t capable of it. Colm is a laid back guy, who takes his job seriously and wants to do things well. He’s also very even tempered, and I liked watching him handle situations as they arose. So both characters were nice, but even still, I felt like I was barely scratching the surface, and as if they were caricatures without any depth. This may have changed as the book goes on, but at 30% I would have hoped to know the characters better and for them to have more dimension. I also didn’t feel much chemistry between them at this point.
Had the style been different, I would have been thoroughly engaged in the book and the characters. The bones were there to make a great story. Unfortunately for me, it failed to capture me. Because of the lackluster writing, I didn’t care about the MCs or the outcome of the mystery. It was a disappointment for sure, but rather than continue on I thought it would be more prudent to stop reading when I did.