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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book review: Wobble To Death by Peter Lovesey


I loved the first Peter Lovesey I read, Another One Goes Tonight, so I thought I wanted to read more of his, and when I saw the first book in his historical mystery series was about pedestrianism, which I read an entire book about last winter, it was a certainty.

It certainly felt authentic. There is plenty of 19th century slang, and the main detective, Sergeant Cribb, has these crazy whiskers that I had to look up to understand. It's interesting to see the footwork that had to go into detecting in those days—while trying to track down which pharmacies might have sold a poison and to whom, instead of simply accessing a database, they had to send police officers all over town to look at handwritten books. But it's also great to see that there was organization enough to do that. One funny thing was the lack of urgency since this was a six-day race (with the winner walking nearly 500 miles) and the murderer surely was involved with the race in some way and therefore the detectives didn't have to rush (until the last day.)

The language could be a bit tricky at times, and Lovesey doesn't explain any of the authentic items from the day, so often I would just go with it, assuming that whatever was unfamiliar to me wasn't crucial to the storyline and instead was just for atmosphere. But occasionally the language left me floundering a bit. Maybe if the book were longer, I would have gotten more immersed and found that it flowed better. But it didn't need to be any longer at all. It was a lightweight story and was the perfect length. Cribb and his assistant Thackery were great, and pretty funny. I especially liked when twice Cribb made Thackery, not a thin man, participate in the race in order to interview one of the participants. The pedestrians mostly were a lump that you ignored but the two superstars, and then three others (particularly the odd little doctor) were well-developed and good characters.

Honestly, if you'd told me this book was written in 1885, I would believe you. It was a fun, diverting read.

This book is published by my employer, Soho Press.

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