Cornelius Quaint has arrived with his circus in Victorian London. The mysterious Mr Reynolds appears to be working for the evil Bishop, setting up a series of murders to rid an area of its inhabitants to suit the Bishop’s plans to search for an elixir of life. So when one of the circus’s best loved performers is found gruesomely murdered and the circus strongman is arrested as the main suspect, Cornelius is drawn into a tale of intrigue and deceit.
Darren Craske weaves a tale with layer upon layer of crime, villainy and murder. No-one is quite what they seem, except possibly the horse Cornelius steals to get to Hyde Park more quickly. The story moves rapidly from one side of London to the other and back again, with one character after another proving to have been duped by Mr Reynolds, and most of them ending up dead.
It is a challenging story which moves at a fast pace, yet I felt dissatisfied with it on a number of levels. After the first quarter of the book, the prose became unduly descriptive, with such intricate detail of the surroundings it detracted from the action. The scene and the suspense had been set, such detail was unnecessary. Shortly after there were two or three chapters where long interchanges of dialogue were run together in a single paragraph, so that it was difficult to see who was talking. And the two main characters seemed to delight in making long speeches at each other. Especially once they were finally stripped of their pretences and approaching the denouement. At this stage, the detail had faded into the background, quite in contrast to the earlier chapters. I felt the book needed a good edit to help sort it out. And a map to help them work out why they are having trouble getting from Kensington to Hyde Park when they started from Wapping.
So although I hoped to find a tale that intrigued as much as the description had promised, I am afraid I found Mr Quaint rather tedious in the end, and I won’t be following his further adventures.
The Equivoque Principle by Darren Craske