Invention of Fire by Bruce Holsinger (3 out of 5)


The first strike came quickly- halfway through the book, I noticed it said (John Gower #2). Guess who didn’t read the first book? ME! I don’t like picking up on a second or third book in a series.. if I’m going to read a series, I usually do it in order. So…I did get into this historical mystery pretty quick. Holly’s been on my case to read it so she can start it. I showed it to her the other night and told her “I’ll either love it or it’ll lose me”. Sadly, it lost me. There isn’t one thing I can point to. I was riveted most of the way through, then halfway through, one tiny thread unraveled and I lost total interest. The end? Well, it made perfect sense. It was a very good, historical mystery, but it wasn’t on the level of an Ian Caldwell or one of Dan Brown’s books that didn’t suck (Angels & Demons). It was a good, historical mystery. Just not compelling enough to recommend it to the masses en masse.

London in 1836 finds a grisly discovery- that of sixteen corpses, all done in by various and different forms of torture, dumped in a pile inside the walls of the city. John Gower, a medieval poet and trader, is summoned to investigate a grisly find that takes place inside the city walls. Sixteen corpses have been dumped, with various wounds like none seen before, with no seeming clues as to what happened or the perpetrator(s) of the crime. Even in seedy London in 1836, this is a crime of pretty seismic proportions. He figures out the dead got that way courtesy of handgonnes (or as they are commonly known, handguns), a new entry into weapon arsenals. Gower’s quest for justice and the truth is seriously challenged by just about everyone he comes into contact with in London, so he heads to all points between and ends up in Kent, with his friend, the infamous Geoffrey Chaucer. His continual investigation leads to discovery of even more of these deadly handgonnes, and all signs indicate that the person or persons responsible for this are going to commit crimes on an even more broad scale. Can Gower uncover what the next plan is, who was behind the sixteen corpses, and how to stop the next attack? Can Chaucer, as Justice of the Peace, help at all, or will things take a more deadly turn?

Here’s my main complaint: Sixteen corpses discovered in the way that they are in the book? Should have leveled the playing field as far as the narrative and how the book progressed. But instead, it almost became more of a directive on treachery and corruption in 1800’s London. That’s fine, because it did have a place in what happened in the book. However, it took over a good portion of the book and didn’t let it go. Kind of like the vagrant who was out on the corner outside the pub begging for food, and despite you giving him the rotten bread, he continues to beg every time he spots you (Pardon me, dear reader, trying to think of something that happened frequently in London in the 1800’s. This was the best I could come up with). That sense of duplicity took over, and it lost me a little there. And then there was the matter of the time it took to finally unravel what happened, once the matter of the corruption was finally dropped. It’s a long, slow read. Normally, I don’t mind that, but between trying to read this one and Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants, I just about shorted out my brain sockets. This book takes a long, long time to reach its conclusion. I really DID enjoy the many twists and turns that Holsinger throws at you, but really, in the end, it was more about how it just didn’t hit the bulls eye with me. It was a satisfying conclusion, a bloody brilliant one, actually, but the walk down the road to the faire just took so many middling steps and scenic route detours that the book had lost my interest by the time I got to the end. If you like a book similar to Bernard Cornwall’s staggering historical epics, well, then you will love this one. If you’re like me and you want quick paced, event based historical mysteries like Ian Caldwell, then you should go read an Ian Caldwell instead.

~ by generationgbooks on August 22, 2015.

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