Where The Dead Lie

Suggested by Brad Nelson • One of London’s many homeless children, Benji Thatcher, was abducted and tortured before his murder—and his younger sister is still missing. Few in authority care about a street urchin’s fate, but Sebastian refuses to let this killer go unpunished.
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11 Responses to Where The Dead Lie

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I started, by chance, with book #12 in the series.

    This book reminds me much of other recent crime novels authored by women (Shinju, The White Mirror, Jade Dragon Mountain, The Infidel Stain). These are all competently written but lacking in a kind of multiplex creativity, layeredness, and flair that mark all good novels.

    These novels — including “Where the Dead Lie” — plod along. Although this (and the others) don’t fall prey to cliche (and mostly not to political correctness as well), a few time-tested themes would have served all of them well, including telling these stories in a less linear fashion. I don’t mean throttling you with flashbacks. But many good books have two or three threads running at once that you are toggled between. And, indeed, sometimes a flashback is a great way to tell some back story.

    I suspect women have a difficult time telling the kind of grand and noble story that I generally like. Kipling could do that. Still, with women overtaking men in college admission, it’s becoming apparent that men are becoming novelistically illiterate while women have picked up the slack. But the missing testosterone, if you will, is noticeable and obvious.

    Still, I don’t mean to damn with faint praise. “Where the Dead Lie” tells a straightforward story of London at the turn of the 19th century. Women are often “transported” (mostly to Australia, I presume) for various crimes. Their children (according to this account) are then quite literally left to fend for themselves in the streets.

    In this story, these vulnerable children are being preyed upon by someone with mean tastes. The violence and situations are not generally graphic, but this is a ghastly business. Sebastian St. Cyr, one of the blue bloods and highly-connected, has made a hobby of being a detective. Alas, his motivation for doing so (boredom? seeking justice? revenge?) may have been dealt with in earlier novels but is mostly left untold here. Like all the novels I have mentioned, the characters are generally pretty thin. There is no passion or complexity to any of them. They just do what they do as you move from one page to the next.

    I will have to slip next to some Raymond Chandler if only in hope of getting more dynamic, realistic, and motivated characters. Still, this is a competent novel. And, like most of the novels I’ve mentioned (although I do highly recommend “The White Mirror”), instead of creating a depth of plot it simply recycles the same basic modus operandi.

    I know that sounds as if I thought this novel was outstandingly dull. But it has a character to it. It is sort of Dickens without the flair but focused on an even darker subject matter.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I suspect that the authorities’ lack of interest in the fate of street urchins is probably all too accurate even today. But I don’t think transportation to Australia was still happening around 1900, or that there were ever a lot of women (unless they transported prostitutes).

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        This book is set in 1813 London. By “turn of the 19th century” I assumed this meant turning the corner into the 1800’s. I must have been thinking like a Brit because Wiki notes about that turn of phrase:

        In British English the phrase the ‘turn of the nineteenth century’ refers to the years immediately preceding and immediately following 1801, the ‘turn of the twentieth century’ to the years surrounding 1901, and so on.

        In American English it is not so clear cut.

        This information was easily Googleable.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    As for female mystery writers, I think Dorothy L. Sayers was quite good, but she quit to take up religious writing (her attitude was made evident previously in The Nine Tailors, in which church bells play an important role). One involves a pretender to the Russian throne (of course, during the era of Stalin he would have little chance of becoming Tsar even if he were the real thing). Agatha Christie, whatever her flaws, wrote 3 great mystery plays (Ten Little Indians, Witness for the Prosecution, and The Mousetrap.

    There are a number of female mystery writers today, but the ones I’m familiar with tend to be very domestic, so you might not like them much. On the other hand, with Dianne Mott Davidson’s series about a caterer who helps solve crimes (working with homicide — in fact, her husband in the later books is a homicide detective) at least can make for some delicious reading.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Male writers (as we see in movies) can become addicted to shear spectacle and technology and lose elements such as story. Women, on the other hand, can err too far on the other side and leave out some needed spectacle.

      There is a reason most great inventions (including art) were done by men and it’s not because women were held down. Men and women are different.

      But given the true mediocrity gripping the Star Wars franchise (haven’t seen it yet but I believe the accounts), bad taste and artlessness are likely equal opportunity employers. Progressivism (strongly influenced by feminism and racism against whites) has greatly harmed the story-telling ability of modern writers.

      Ed Straker has what I’d call an above-the-daily-drama perespective on the denuded Star Wars franchise. His comments fit here very well.

      Gary Dickson has a very droll reply in the comments section:

      I’m waiting for Star Wars: The Last Social Justice Warrior.

      Social Justice Warriors are more powerful than Jedis since SJWs anoint themselves victims and victims, as we all know, are very powerful. The Force is with them.

      Even more powerful than Social Justice Warriors are LGBTQ Warriors. They’re able to walk into a cake store and, with a wave of their hands, that cake store goes out of business.

      There are some hilarious comments to that article. But one author makes as succinct a point as possible:

      This is what happens when you let Millennials write scripts….

      • Timothy Lane says:

        As to spectacle, I think many of Lois McMaster Bujold’s works have a degree of it, and a couple are in either the book reviews or the book recommendations. I might also add Anne McCaffrey’s dragonriders series, which should definitely qualify as spectacle. Bujold’s friend Lillian Stewart Carl has done some interesting stuff as well, though it can be hard to find. (She once noted that her Amazone listings tend to include my name prominently, since they hadn’t been reviewed by a lot of people.)

        And while I’m at it, I will note that S. M. Stirling is a big fan of 19th century British adventures (such as H. R. Haggard’s work), and as a fantasy/SF writer has written homages to them, such as The Peshawar Lancers, which I think would fit well in the book recommendations. He included the use of pig’s blood as a morale weapon against Muslim in that one. I believe he also had the Russians going back to worshipping the demon Chernobog (the Black God).

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Haggard has a nice mix of action and character in his Quatermain novels. These are “guy” books. And if women like them too, that’s great.

          Right now I’m in the midst of finishing a Thorndyke novel I had started some time ago: “For the defense: Thorndyke.” It’s a bizarre and unlikely plot, but life can be that way sometimes.

          I’ve also got on the back-burner (and I forget which one) a Quatermain novel I started about a year ago. I might get back to that.

          Books by Lois McMaster go for a fair price for the Kindle. I might check one of them out in the future.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Some of Bujold’s books have interesting covers. The original cover for Warrior’s Apprentice (which I believe is one I recommended earlier) showed this nice romantic couple on a military spaceship — and their freakish-looking captain in front of them. And he’s the hero of the novel (and many other books as well, being her primary series character).

            The cover of Barrayar (in which the series hero is mainly a fetus, though the epilogue does include him as a child) shows the series hero — in the background, as a fetus in a bottle (he had to be removed after his mother was hit with a teratogenic poison).

            One might also note that in Ethan of Athos, the main story involves the hunt for telepath. The title character, a healer, think of his potential value for healing. The other main character, Elly Quinn pf the Dendarii Free Mercenaries, thinks of his military use. I rather liked the sexual role reversal there.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    About 80% of “When Falcons Fall” (book 11 in the series of 13) is readable. But I hit a point last night when nearing the end that I just started skipping pages. At some point you feel cheated. Not only was the conclusion not worth all the minutia the author puts you through, but the main characters (Hero and her husband, Devlin) just come off as insipid.

    Anyway, I can’t recommend this series. There were details of Old England scattered throughout the first part of the book that I found interesting and that kept me going. But this is another case of a book being at least a hundred pages too long. It cycled through the consideration of suspect after suspect in such a repetitive and boring way. Instead of actually writing new parts of a story, we got the same boring shtick time after time but with different people. “Oh, Mr. X knew Mrs. M back in 1870. Maybe he killed her.”

    So many names came up I completely lost track, especially near the end, and thus I completely lost all involvement in the story. A shame because it wasn’t all that bad before then. But the author just seemed to have no overarching purpose or moral to this story. It wasn’t about anything. And, again, at some point it just hit me how insipid the main characters were.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I had a similar problem with Heinlein’s Number of the Beast. Most of the book is competently enough written to be readable (but little better, which made it a pretty mediocre work, especially for Heinlein). But I gave up near the end when Lazarus Long puts on a party that includes a trap for critics. Writers and actors don’t like critics (cf. the superb Vincent Price movie Theater of Blood), Heinlein himself being an excellent example. But Long was neither. Heinlein was taking his identification with his character much too far in that case.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Yes. I can see your point. And in “When Falcons Fall,” she even had Lucien Bonaparte to thicken the plot. But he is nothing more than window dressing. A very uninspired story.

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