The House on Half Moon Street - Alex Reeve
I feel a bit embarrassed that it took me a while to get around to reading this fabulous historical mystery with a difference. And my only excuse is that it arrived on my tbr accompanied by so many other great tales it took me lonegr than I wanted to get around to reading them all. This was worth the wait!
2018 has been for me THE year of the historical novel, with a plethora of wonderful, tempting new titles to entice and beguile me, and a delightful profusion of new historical fiction.
This one is no exception. A most entertaining, heartfelt and gripping murder mystery with twists aplenty and characters who entranced me.
This intriguing new title, features a hero I was a little unsure whether I'd relate to at first, but have to admit i fell head over heels in love with. Leo, born in a girls body has always known he is a man and left his family and his former female identity to live as a man, in the city of London.
An inevitable decision, yet nevertheless a very brave one as not only, if he were discovered living transgender in the Victorian era, would he be viewed as perverted and insane but is, every minute of every day, just by being his true self is breaking every law in the book and would face severe penalties.
In the course of his job, working in a hospital as a coroners assistant he comes close to the recently deceased and I was almost as shocked and horrified as he must have felt, when he peels back the covering from the face of a woman dragged from the Thames, to see the face of his beloved! Maria, a prostitute, nevertheless won Leo's heart with her gentle acceptance of his true self and her sweet nature despite her calling, made him fall hook line and sinker for this lady of the night and even though he has always known that she can be any mans for a few shillings, he dreamt of a future for them together as a couple maybe even as man and wife one day and all that is now shattered. Maria is dead and Leo, beside himself with grief decides th elast thing he can do for her, is uncover what really happened to his beloved girl.
Suspecting foul play he becomes embroiled in the lives of other people, Rosie Flowers recently widowed, his landlord the hapless pharmacist with an enterprising nature who tries to set up a dental surgery in his shop without great success and his young daughter Constance, who dreams of owning a kitten and tries to educate Leo in the manufacture of medicines and cures by constantly testing him on the properties of potions and physics.
But life gets more complicated as Leo becomes at first a suspect then gets himself further and deeper in the clutches of some nefarious characters who all surround the house in half moon street which is the brothel at the heart of his investigation.
He ends up with some truly terrible things happening to him one of which in particular made me really cry my eyes out and he makes discoveries that not only is he harbouring his own great secret but almost everyone else around him has their own secrets too. The reason I loved Leo is, he retains, together with some of the physical frailties of the womans body he is encased within, a gentle understanding of women which seems singularly lacking in most of his male contemporaries, making him slightly vulnerable and I just wanted to give him a big hug and mother him.
Peopled with wonderful characters, some likeable, some loathsome, located in the murkiest of 19th century London slums and dockland and mystery piled upon mystery all make for a truly entertaining genre and gender crossing and captivating, wonderful book.
Loved, loved loved it.
The best thing is this is number one in a forthcoming series and I can hardly wait to meet up with Leo again soon.
My review copy was from Netgalley and my thanks go to the publisher Raven Books for providing me with the ebook to read.
Everyone has a secret... Only some lead to murder.
Leo Stanhope. Assistant to a London coroner; in love with Maria; and hiding a very big secret.
For Leo was born Charlotte, but knowing he was meant to be a man – despite the evidence of his body – he fled his family home at just fifteen, and has been living as Leo ever since: his original identity known only to a few trusted people.
But then Maria is found dead and Leo is accused of her murder. Desperate to find her killer and under suspicion from all those around him, he stands to lose not just the woman he loves, but his freedom and, ultimately, his life.
A wonderfully atmospheric debut, rich in character and setting, in The House on Half Moon Street Alex Reeve has created a world that crime readers will want to return to again and again.
Available now at Amazon and all good bookstores