Synopsis: London, 1863: prostitutes in Waterloo area are turning up dead, their sexual organs mutilated and removed. When another girl goes missing, fears grow that the killer may have claimed their latest victim. The police are at a loss and so it falls to courtesan and professional detective Heloise Chancey to investigate. With the assistance of her trusty Chinese maid, Amah Li Leen, Heloise inches closer to the truth. But when Amah is implicated in the brutal plot, Heloise must reconsider who she can trust before the killer strikes again
My review: Looking at the reviews for this one online it seems quite divisive. People seem to love it or hate it so I fully expected a similar reaction. Slightly disappointed then that I ended up feeling ‘meh’. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. It was quite easy to put it down and start reading another book and go back to it at a later time. Not necessary a bad thing, there are some books I’ve done that with and never finished them.
Heloise (and I love that name) is a courtesan in the Victorian era who does occasional work for a private detective. Searching for a missing unmarried pregnant woman takes her back to the seedy side of London and the world of prostitution, back street abortionists and a world where women are being brutally murdered.
I’ve read some reviews that talk about the misogyny within the book and the language from the men to the women. While it can be offensive it’s typical of the era and so to me fit well within the story and as much as I hate the idea of us being silly women with little brains we’ve definitely come a long way since then. Heloise has brains and the book to me shows that she uses her brain while at the same time being able to manipulate the men into thinking everything is all their idea. Which I imagine wet on a lot.
The murders are grisly and well documented. I was a bit confused by the policeman, working the murder on the side to try and enable him a promotion. At no time was it discussed how that went, whether his superiors approved, whether solving the crime got him what he wanted or questioned why he was doing such a thing. It seemed strange to me.
I couldn’t quite take to Heloise. It was never clear how she managed to go from back street prostitute to owning several properties. Although she did spend a lot of time using one rich man or another so maybe it came from them. She was so self obsessed that I just couldn’t bring myself to like her which took away some of the enjoyment of the book.
Altogether it’s not a horrible book but I’m probably not going to read any more of them.
Free arc from netgalley