A gothic crime novel that really wants to be stifling and atmospheric and even pulls it off at times. It ticks all the boxes, to a point that it becomes a bit stifled itself.
As many of my recent books this is another one from a subscription box. Unlike many of the other books I did not fall in love with this one. I took it with me for vacation on Poland and when read I abandoned it in the hotel, hoping it would find a more appropriate reader.
It really is ticking all the boxes on the gothic novel checklist. Our narrator is one of the first forensic photographers in the United Kingdom. He tells us about the events that took place in 1904, but he clearly is reminiscing on them. That year his work sent him to Dinas Powys in Wales. A small and very unfriendly village, as Bexley had a chance to experience from the get go.
A young woman has been murdered in a brutal way and the village is upset, but also intent on keeping things to themselves. Bexley is perceived as a stranger and meddling intruder and barely tolerated. The inn he stays in is rife with eerie noises at night and also sports a gloomy and unapproachable innkeeper. There’s senile lord of the manor and a host of local characters of various levels of malice and ineptitude, including a local constable.
As Bexley starts his investigation his health fails him and he’s stricken with fever. As he fights it for the first few days we get one of the most chilling scenes in the book when he goes to photograph the body, that for mysterious reasons is kept in a church of neighbouring settlement. After that horrific experience Bexley succumbs to the fever for a few days.
When he gets betters, after a number of hallucinations and weird nights. He continues his work and we plod along with him. But with every page the characters seem more like cliches, there is hardly anything that can surprise us, and that’s not excluding the supernatural.
It plays all the right notes and in a correct way, but it lacks inspiration. To me it felt a bit like making a cake from an instant mix as opposed to making it from scratch (though I’m not an avid confectionery baker).
Not a bad book for a beach read and a debut, but I will not hold my breath for a follow up.