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I know, two posts in one week! I’ve got a lot of great content coming up in the next few weeks and I needed to get this review out for you guys. I hope you enjoy!
A nineteenth century romance, an impoverished writer and a dastardly murder to solve. This book was a solid read, with some great mystery to it. Special thanks to Kensington Books and Heather Redmond for giving me an advanced review copy of this book
Grave Expectations by Heather Redmond is the second book of her series starring Charles Dickens as the intrepid reporter. Her first book starring Dickens, A Tale of Two Murders has been well received and although I haven’t read it myself the positive reviews of her writing encouraged me to request Grave Expectations for review.
What’s it about?
If you haven’t picked up based on the title of this book, Grave Expectations draws on the book Great Expectations and the life of the author Charles Dickens.
Set in June 1835 Grave Expectations follows writer Charles Dickens as he strives to make a name for himself in the writing world. With his upcoming wedding to plan with financé Kate Hogarth the writer certainly has enough on his plate.
Then Charles finds his spinster neighbour, Mrs Haverstock murdered in the rooms above, dressed in what seems to be a wedding gown, he finds himself determined to find the killer. The police have a suspect in custody, but Kate and Charles must work together to unravel the mystery, and hopefully save an innocent man in the process.
What did I like about this book?
This book was quite fun. Rutherford is clearly well versed in her understanding of the real life Charles Dickens and seasons her story well with her research. It’s nice to imagine the real person Charles Dickens living his life. Whilst he may not have played the detective to the same degree as in this story, Rutherford transforms Dickens into a character that brings history to life.
I really enjoyed the character of Charles Dickens. He was generous, clever and brave. He was loyal to his fiancé and their romance was strong throughout the book. The character development throughout the novel was well done. The development of secondary characters such as the neighbours of Charles and his family were really well done.
The actual mystery element of the story in Grave Expectations was intriguing. I wanted to know what happened to Mrs Haverstock and why she was dressed in a wedding gown when she was killed. I was satisfied with the ending of the book, and the explanation provided.
There was a really bittersweet moment with all the characters as they discover something very central to the character of Mrs Haverstock at the end of the book. It’s just personal preference but I like books not to have endings that are too emotionally tidy. I remember the emotional endings more than the happily ever afters. This book achieved this emotional moment through that scene. What type of ending sticks in your mind when you finish a book?
What I liked least about this book?
I’m in two minds as to whether I like that this book is about Charles Dickens. On one hand it’s fun to read, but on the other Charles Dickens was a real person. It’s one part of fiction writing that I find somewhat troubling. The taking a real person from history and turning them into a character. Particularly when real facts about their life are sprinkled throughout.
I think when approaching books such as Grave Expectation we need to take it with a grain of salt. It’s not intended to be a biography and shouldn’t be read as such. So long as I just pretended this character was entirely new, it was fine.
I do find it interesting to think that if enough time has passed between an authors death, or a books publication, they become inspiration for new stories. We see this with stories such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It makes me wonder what the future of the Harry Potter series will be. In generations to come, perhaps the now fan-fictions of the internet will take on a life and vitality of their own and be published in main stream literature.
That’s just something I pondered and struggled with as I read this book. Dickens also reminded me of Sherlock Holmes, perhaps because of the setting and the detective nature of this book.
If you like historical fiction and mystery novels Grave Expectations is worth a read. The take Charles Dickens was fresh and enjoyable. While this book was a pretty long read it’s fairly fast paced. If you don’t really like fiction that openly references another work of literature, probably don’t read.
I haven’t read Great Expectations yet, even though I’ve had a copy for years. The size of the book has intimidated me somewhat, but after reading this book I’m keen to read it and see how closely Grave Expectations interacts with it. Rutherford has put together a discussion guide at the back of the book. I think it’s great when an author does this! What do you think?