Publisher: Random House
Release: November 28th 2017
I received an advanced copy of The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross is the second in the series, following The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief. It’s very difficult to pass up reading books with titles like those! As an added bonus, the cover is absolutely beautiful (what can I say, I’m a sucker for blue and green toned covers). While it is not the first book in the series, the Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross can be read as a standalone book, if you so desire. If you’re looking for a female Sherlock Holmes or a mystery with a fantasy twist, then this is the book for you.
As mentioned above, the main perspective is a woman, and her name is Miss Lane. Her investigation partner is Mr. Jesperson (trust me – the controversy of having an unmarried man and woman working together during that time period is in fact covered). Together they’re trying to unravel the mystery that was dropped at their feet – quite literally in this case.
Following a rather sudden death at their doorstep, Miss Lane and Mr. Jesperson find themselves whisked off to Norfolk, where another death and a kidnapping fully entrench them in the problems at hand.
The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross is a Victorian suspense with a Sherlock feel added to the mix. As with Sherlock, one investigator is by far the leading one, while the other tends to more serenely follow along and appreciate the other’s observations.
At first I assumed that Mr. Jesperson was going to be modeled after Holmes – but I’m less convinced of that now. While they certainly share the same interest, as well as both being very bright (I’d argue Holmes more so however), that’s about all they have in common. In truth I found Mr. Jesperson to be a bit of a flat character on the whole (perhaps it was just the Victorian politeness? But I don’t think so).
Miss Lane is supposedly Mr. Jesperson’s partner in the investigation business they run, but he certainly doesn’t treat her as such. He withholds information and opinions from her, but expects her to share any and all news she receives. I’ll confess that Miss Lane’s passive tone of voice was a bit irritating to me – but perhaps I’m being harsh. It does feel as though her main purpose in the novel was to tell us the story, rather than resolve the mystery herself.
On the whole I think the Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross had a lot of potential. The start to the novel was perfect – it immediately drew me in, the plot was interesting, as were some of the secondary characters. I think with some work I could really have grown to like Miss Lane, and perhaps even Mr. Jesperson. I’ll be curious to see what adventures they get mixed up in next.