TITLE: THE DEVIL’S RIBBON
AUTHOR: D E MEREFITH
PUBLISHER: ALLISON & BUSBY
GENRE: CRIME FICTION
BLURB FROM THE COVER
London swelters in July 1858, and trouble is brewing. Scotland Yard calls on forensic scientist Adolphus Hatton and his trusty assistant, Albert Roumande to help stop a series of violent murders of seemingly unconnected people, linked by the same macabre calling card.
The investigators, who have a morgue full of cholera victims – all Irish, the poorest of the poor – must also unravel a bombing campaign led by agitator and priest Father O’Brian and his gang of would-be terrorists. Meanwhile Hatton finds himself falling under the spell of a beautiful woman.
As the kaleidoscope of outlandish characters, dockside strikes, bomb blasts and violent retribution reaches a crescendo, Hatton’s skills are tested to the limit, taking readers from the wildflower meadows of Kent to an island with a shipwreck and a secret on a nail-biting race against time.
Nothing but shadows and eerie stillness in the heat of a shimmering night as the figure stoops under a lintel and makes his way quickly, through a labyrinth of alleys, before finding Berry Street and heading north along Farrington Road. For a fleeting moment he pauses and looks over his shoulder, to be seen briefly against the backdrops of a Smithfield butcher’s shop. His face mottled like the pox in the dark of its window. A sharp jaw, full lips, skin drawn tight over jutting cheekbones, and grasped tightly in his hands, a book. Musty pages from another lifetime, another world away and on its broken board, just one word – Liberty.
I enjoyed The Devil’s Ribbon. I thought Meredith offered a decent read. The Devil’s Ribbon is one of these in-between novels. I’ve read much better but I’ve also read a lot, lot worse. I didn’t love but enjoyed it too much to hate it.
I really enjoyed all the historical references in The Devil’s Ribbon. I have become quite a fan of historical fiction recently thanks to Hilary Mantel and Edward Rutherford. My favourite parts were all the references to Ireland’s troubled history, the conflict, the IRA and the terrible struggles of the people. This is a part of a history I generally find fascinating and heart-breaking. I thought Meredith did a good job of bringing this turbulent period of history to life. I thought the picture Meredith painted of London in 1858 was very vivid and well written.
I really warmed to Hatton and Roumande. They were well written, vivid and interesting characters. Hatton is a forensic scientist and Roumande is his assistant. For some reason they reminded me a lot of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. The Devil’s Ribbon had a Holmes and Watson fell about it. That’s a good thing. I’m a fan of Holmes & Watson. I liked the way Meredith played them off against each other, how they interacted.
Meredith is a very good writer. Her writing style is competent and vivid. I was able to visualise everything that was going on. She brought London in 1848 and her colourful characters to life. I was impressed by the atmosphere created in The Devil’s Ribbon. It was interesting to read Roumande discuss the very first steps of forensic science.
And yet, I still thought The Devil’s Ribbon was only okay. The Devil’s Ribbon is a competent historical thriller. I just felt like nothing about it made it stand out. I won’t remember it a week from now. I have no interest in seeking out Meredith’s first novel, Devoured. The last novel I read set in a similar place and time was Elijah’s Mermaid by Essie Fox. I still think about Fox’s novel months after I read it. There are other, better historical thrillers out there. Meredith needs to up her game.