A transgender main character. A sex-worker’s murder. 1800’s Victorian London.
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Synopsis (No Spoilers)
Leo Stanhope is a transgender man working as a Coroner’s Assistant, during Victorian era London.
At the local brothel, he’s met and fallen in love with a sex-worker named Maria. Leo dreams of a better life for Maria and desires to settle down with her.
He pursues a courtship, inviting her to meet him at the theatre on a Sunday afternoon.
She stands him up.
The next day at work he finds Maria, deceased.
Believing her death was a murder, and determined to solve the crime (because the police won’t give it any attention), Leo sets out to find Maria’s killer.
What I Liked
The setting is the standout element of this book. It’s wonderfully evoked, and oh so atmospheric. So much so, that when Leo was standing on the streets of London, I was standing on the streets of London. It’s easily my favorite element of the novel.
The writing is wonderful. It’s easy to get into and flows well.
It looks at various women’s lives during Victorian Era London. We meet sex-workers, back alley abortionists, and a transgender character. It also includes issues of poverty, access to medical care, the value of certain lives, and sex trafficking. And that’s just to name a few.
*Trigger warnings in the P.S. to avoid potential spoilers*
Things I Didn’t Like
Flat Main Character. As flat as a pancake. There are many missed opportunities here to flesh Leo out. I wanted more dimension, nuance, and intricacy from his characterization. He was too two-dimensional. It’s so important since he is the novel’s driving-force.
Flat Mystery. In a word: anticlimactic. More frankly, the mystery was a mess. Following the path of almost any other topics the novel introduced, would’ve been way more interesting.
My Final Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
This book was not for me. It seemed half-baked, and needed a little more time in the oven. I was intrigued by the subjects introduced but none were explored satisfactorily.
But, if you’re looking for an atmospheric story, set in Victoria Era London, with delicious writing, The House on Half Moon Street might be your book.
Or if you’re intrigued to glimpse women’s lives on society’s underbelly during that same time, you might enjoy this.
Read a few pages; see what you think.
All the Best,
P.S. Triggers for sexual and physical assault.