Bleeding Heart Square by Andrew Taylor (Canada) - (USA)
Pages: 432 pages
Finished: May 23, 2010
First Published: Mar. 3, 2009
Genre: Historical mystery, historical fiction
Sometimes you frighten yourself.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Hyperion.
Reason for Reading: The book sounded perfect for me: a British historical mystery set in the thirties which the blurbs assured me was "beautifully crafted".
I have found myself a new favourite author! After reading this book, I want to get my hands on anything else by this man. This is a clever book, very intelligently crafted and written with a literary flair. His combination of mystery and history is absolutely superb.
There is so much story here and a mystery that morphs itself in so many directions it's nearly impossible to give a summery. The publisher's don't even bother to try with their brief blurb on the back of my trade pb edition. What can I tell you? Lydia Langstone is an upperclass woman who walks out on her husband because he hits her. She ends up a #7 Bleeding Heart Square, a boarding house, where her Father, a drunk, but jovial sort of fellow when he's upright, lives. She has never met him before but decides to stay with him and gets herself a job in a lawyer's office. Lydia then finds herself in a mystery that has already started; the owner of the boarding house, a Miss Penham, vanished a few years back without a trace, except for a letter arriving from America saying she'd runaway with an old flame. Some accept the letter as true, others believe it to be a forgery. It is within this atmosphere that Lydia gets caught up in the suspense and secrecy which seems to involve all boarders in the house, including her father. Which then spreads further afield and Lydia is on the trail of her own family's secrets and mysteries which lead home to her mother and husband.
The story takes so many twists and turns it makes for fascinating reading. What starts out as a missing person case morphs into several different crimes: murder, rape, kidnapping, suicide, impersonation and so on. With WWII only a few years in the future Britain's political scene and the founding of the British Fascist party only adds to the heavy atmosphere that seeps from the pages of this book. With a combination of crimes, characters, secrets, atmosphere and even politics Bleeding Heart Square has just the right amount of "it" to make me love this story. Once you've been shaken up and down along with the plot and everything settles down for the finale, a final screeching reveal hits you which you've actually been wondering about since page one. You see every now and then someone comes along and narrates in the second person, taking to you,the reader, about some diary entries. One wonders who this person is at times, then at others gets used to the voice and forgets to remember to wonder which character is doing this. The amazing conclusion wraps everything up with a satisfying bang and I'll say I was riveted from start to finish. I'll be looking at his other books now, hopefully he has another set in my favourite era of 1850-1950.