What I’m reading: Girl in Disguise, The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief

My goal on Goodreads for this year is to read 100 novels and I’ve read 56 so far. Plenty of them are older books I was only just getting around to reading, a few couple were re-reads, and I do try my best to read at least one novel a month that was published within the past year or two.

With so much to choose from out there, and being a somewhat fussy yet adventurous reader, I spend a fair amount of time scanning titles and reading through blurbs on myriad lists.

I wound up reading two books back to back that were remarkably similar. Both were set in the Victorian Era, starring female protagonists who’d become private detectives. The Girl* in Disguise centered on the first ever female detective employed at the famous Pinkerton agency. This one was based on a real person, who’d supposedly assisted in protecting President Abraham Lincoln from an assassination plot. Although I enjoyed it and the writing was quite clever, it unfortunately never felt that true to the era. The character still seemed overly modern, as was the writing style. The main plot also took a while to get going; the earlier chapters were more like loosely-connected short stories. Overall it was an enjoyable book, though. I also found the connection of the railways being laid down, and the war effort, quite interesting.

However I did prefer Lisa Tuttle’s novel The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief. The writing style mimicked that particular era (1800s) more closely, plus I often do prefer stories with supernatural elements of some kind or other. (along with those who are skeptical or debunk psychic phenomena, such as my own story A Fortune Teller’s Luck) Although I tend to avoid books set in London (especially if they aren’t written by English authors and especially Victorian London) – I made an exception for this one after reading The Mysteries by the same author. She has a knack for pacing and keeping the reader hooked.

The neat thing about reading both novels within a short time period is the reminder that you can take a nearly identical premise and two authors will spin two entirely different stories and worlds from it.

 

 

*PLEASE, publishers, can we already end this trend of protagonists over the age of 18 being referred to as girls? Even Wilkie Collins, back in the mid-1800s, named his book The WOMAN in White.
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