Fantasy Mystery Romance Comics Non-Fiction

A Broken Vessel

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Broken Vessel (1994) Kate Ross

The second Julian Kestrel mystery, A Broken Vessel looks at prostitution in 1800s London, and the Reclamation houses that existed to recover these women. Julian is introduced to this world through his manservant Dipper, who discovers his lost sister, who is working as a ladybird.

One of the most interesting things about this book is the language. Dipper and his sister both speak a patois that is distinctly different from how Julian speaks, and their vocabulary is that of the streets. However, Kate Ross wrote the dialog so that the slang is understandable, which is quite impressive.

“He kept a shop, I could tell by his duds. He was very natty–wore a clean white crumpler, with his gills standing up all straight and neat.” She held up her forefingers, imitating the corners of a turned-up collar.

I really enjoyed how the language changed from character to character, and the descriptions of the clothes and the world at that time. She did a good job of making those things interesting, without sounding like she was explaining. Julian is just as witty in this book as he was in the previous–maybe even more so, which I very much enjoyed. I’m a big fan of witty banter, and Julian’s banter (when he’s in a bantering mood) is fun.

The mystery was also interesting. They had too much information to put the puzzle together, which made what should have been a simple purloined letter mystery far more difficult. However, I’m not sure that the mystery wasn’t a little too confusing. All the pieces were there, but I’m not sure how easy it would be to put all the pieces together and make sense of the whole thing. They were there, and they made sense in retrospect, but wow. I certainly wasn’t expecting how things turned out.

The surprise for me in this book was the amount of sex. Okay, so the main characters (aside from Julian Kestrel and Dipper) were prostitutes, but I still wasn’t expecting quite that much sex. I think the book should still be okay for my grandmother–although I will warn her.

Another very good story, and the writing was again excellent. You should be able to read this story without having read the first, although I think some of the passages were better with knowledge of the events of the previous book. Of course, that’s almost always the case, isn’t it?
Rating: 8/10

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