I received a free copy of this ebook to review from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher. It will be released 30 July 2013.
Lawless and the Devil of Euston Square, by William Sutton, is the opening volume in a trilogy about Campbell Lawless. Lawless is a Scottish transplant to London. He joined the Metropolitan Police, looking for a life more exciting than repairing watches and clocks with his father. Unfortunately, being a low level constable in London in 1859 isn’t the righteous (in the old sense of the world, not the Bill and Ted sense of the word) adventure that he thought it would be.
Anyone familiar with Dickens’ novel will recognize the setting of Lawless and the Devil of Euston Square. It’s London before reform fever hits. It’s dark. It’s smelly. The divide between rich and poor is a nearly insurmountable gap. Most of all, it’s deadly. Lawless is almost criminally unschooled in the ways of the city when he is plucked from his desk to become the assistant of Inspector Wardle, a man with a fearsome reputation built over decades of police work.
Lawless’ first case looks like nothing more than a puzzling prank with a water spout and a stolen clock mechanism. The first sign that this book is going unexpected places is that Wardle squelches Lawless’ curiosity. He gives the budding copper boring tasks. Lawless investigates anyway, since the great detective is often absent from his Scotland Yard office. As months (and even years) roll past, more clues fall into Lawless’ lap. Sutton doesn’t make it easy for us though. You know there’s something devious going on, but it stays just out of reach until near the end of the book. It’s a tantalizing read.
For me, a librarian, the best parts were when Ruth Villiers gets involved. Following a hunch to old newspapers at the British Museum Library. Lawless’ questions and puzzles pique the librarian’s interest, giving her “detective fever.” I’m sure I would have enjoyed the spunky girl even if she wasn’t a librarian. She provides necessary spark as Lawless is a fairly dogged, dour man.
This book was full of surprises. It doesn’t follow any of the typical mystery plots, or even thriller plots. I love books that can surprise me. Sutton populates his book with a wide cast of very interesting people, from princes down to toshers. The afterword hits at even more interesting cases in Lawless’ future, so I’m curious to see what comes next.