Dana reviews Come to Dust by J.S. Cook (Published by Dreamspinner Press November 14, 2014, 230 pages. Released on audiobook May 7, 2015, 7 hrs 53 min, narrated by Joel Leslie) A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read/listened to this book: This week at RGR we are reviewing Historical books. I have had this audio in my library waiting for the perfect time to review it. This historical looked like it had a bit of mystery in it and I am already a fan of the narrator, so it was clearly time.
In the frigid winter of 1891, with the nation still reeling from the Barings bank crisis, Inspector Philemon Raft returns from an involuntary sabbatical and is tasked with solving the kidnapping of highly placed peer Alice Dewberry. Thrust into a sordid underworld where the upper classes indulge in disreputable overseas investments designed to fatten their pocketbooks, Raft finds himself at loose ends without his companion, Constable Freddie Crook. Far from offering their help, members of upper classes use every asset at their disposal to keep Raft from discovering the truth about hapless kidnap victim Alice Dewberry – who may not even exist.
Soon Raft discovers that his old nemesis, the workhouse master John Gallant, has returned to London. Gallant doesn’t say what he wants – but he knows enough to ruin Raft’s career and even his life. Raft tries to solve the case with his usual strange insight, but there are other, darker forces at work. This is a frightened London: the London of Whitechapel; of Jack the Ripper; the London of poverty, dirt, and despair, where a right turn down the wrong alley could earn Raft a swift trip to the morgue.
Narration: I’ve listened to many books narrated by Joel Leslie. He always does a fantastic job creating a multitude of accents and variations in tone to give a unique voice to every character in the book. Sometimes it is hard to believe all the voices come from one person. His narration was a bright spot of this listening experience.
Story: This review is a little hard for me to write. I enjoyed the book and thought it had some really interesting ideas. However, there was so much going on in this book, maybe a little too much. I was left feeling confused and also wanting more. Many of the ideas I would have liked to learn more about. According to Goodreads, this book is listed as book 3, but I don’t see the previous books for sale anywhere. Perhaps those might have cleared up some of my confusion.
We start in 1891 when being gay could be considered a crime. Inspector Philemon Raft is assigned to solve the case of a missing girl. Raft is an interesting character. He seems to see ghosts. I would have liked to have seen his ability be used in solving crimes, but it seems like it is just a facet of the character that doesn’t really go anywhere. He still seems to have excellent powers of deduction and is a respected detective. His lover and sidekick, Constable Freddie Crook, is out of the country battling a laudanum addiction. It is obvious that Raft had great feelings for the man. During moments of the book, Raft would hear or see Freddie. I was left trying to figure out whether he was dead or if it was just daydreams and memories. It played havoc on Raft and on me, too.
With Freddie gone, Raft is assigned a new partner, Prentiss Chalmondley. (I think that is how it is spelled, since I listened to the audio without having the book in front of me.) Prentiss is an interesting character. He talks in a cockney slang that causes others to think he’s not particularly bright, but they’re dead wrong. His intelligence and investigative skills are clearly being misused in his usual position of minding the prisoners in their cells. Prentiss is also a very likable guy. His crush on Raft is returned a bit, but Raft is longing for Freddie.
The mystery itself was interesting. A boat load of twists and turns await, including an intersex character. While the kidnapping case was solved, in a matter of speaking, it’s not without casualties. Several lives are lost, and Raft finds himself maybe-temporarily blinded. I wish I could find out what happens in the future for him. Gallant is a side character who I would have liked to learn more about as well. He and Raft have a past, but I feel like there could have been a whole other story involving that past, because even Raft seems unclear as to what happened. Overall, it is a book I would recommend. It was a good mystery but I wish I didn’t have so many questions left hanging when it ended. My hope is that the previous two books are being republished or there will be a follow up.
7.5/10 Pots of Gold (75% Recommended) – Compares to 3.75/5 Stars