03 August, 2015

Ghastly business by Louise Levene

Set in 1929, this glorious novel describes how our heroine, Dora, takes a position as a clerk in the pathology department in a London hospital headed by Alfred Kemble, where she immediately becomes immersed in the ghastly business of murder, schadenfreude and scandal.

The character of Alfred Kemble is created using the public essence of the famous Sir Bernard Spilsbury, but this is in no way a biography. His physicality, court presence and most famous cases are borrowed, but all else is a product of Levene’s vivid imagination and dark humour, backed up by thorough research.

Levene’s clipped and witty prose paints a picture of 1929 London as a bleak world of conflict between public and private: social niceties and outward modesty contrast vividly with private abandon and bloody mayhem.

If you devour details of historic cases such as the “Brides in the Bath Murders” and enjoy a heroine who is acerbically naive, then you must read this book and add Louise Levene to your list of preferred authors, as I have.

Ghastly business
Author: Louise Levene

Reviewed by Monica F, Orewa Library

Monica F is happiest in gumboots and apron, attending to her animals, harvesting her crops and making stuff. Like all truly wholesome people, she has a dark side, and enjoys nothing better than well written true crime and forensic medicine.

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