It is 1855, and engineer William May has returned home to his beloved wife from
the battlefields of the Crimea. He secures a job transforming London's sewer
system and begins to lay his ghosts to rest. Above ground, his work is
increasingly compromised by corruption, and cholera epidemics threaten the city.
But it is only when the peace of the tunnels is shattered by murder that William
loses his tenuous hold on sanity. Implicated in the crime, plagued by visions
and nightmares, even he is not sure of his innocence. Long Arm Tom, who
scavenges for valuables in the subterranean world of the sewers and cares for
nothing and no one but his dog, Lady, is William's only hope of salvation. Will
he bring the truth to light?
With extraordinarily vivid characters and unflinching prose that recall Year of Wonders and The Dress Lodger, The Great Stink marks the debut of an outstandingly talented writer in the tradition of the best historical novelists.
Where the channel snaked to the right it was no longer possible to stand upright, despite the abrupt drop in the gradient. The crown of William's hat grazed the slimed roof as he stooped, holding his lantern before him, and the stink of excrement pressed into his nostrils. His hand was unsteady and the light shuddered and jumped in the darkness. Rising and rushing through the narrower gully, the stream pressed the greased leather of his high boots hard against the flesh of his calves, the surge of the water muffling the clatter of hooves and iron-edged wheels above him. Of course he was deeper now. Between him and the granite-block road was at least twenty feet of heavy London clay. The weight of it deepened the darkness. Beneath his feet the rotten bricks were treacherous, soft as crumbled cheese, and with each step the ...
This is a gripping, richly atmospheric and exceptionally well researched first novel that delivers a fast paced, credible story-line against the background of one of the great feats of British architecture - the building of the London sewer system (made all the more challenging because much of London is 30 feet below the River Thames at high tide, making drainage by gravity alone impossible).
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (134 words).
The Crimean War (1854-1856) was fought between Russia and an alliance of countries including Britain. It is considered to be the first "modern" war, and was marked by an extraordinary level of incompetence, at least from the British point of view. The low point of the war was probably the notorious Charge of the Light Brigade, immortalized by Alfred Tennyson. One good thing did result from the Charge of the Light Brigade - it put an end to the sale of military commissions: The officer who ordered the charge was Lord Cardigan (the eponymous wearer of that useful button down garment that carries his name) who had paid £40,000 to rise from the rank of an incoming officer to Lieutenant-Colonel in just 6 years. Another good...
If you liked The Great Stink, try these:
The nineth Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery, set in Post-World War I England. Rutledge is called on to prove the innocence of a man he dislikes and distrusts. But the deadly triangle also stirs up memories of the woman he himself loved and lost when he went to France to fight.
Myerson conjures a nineteenth-century London that is tender, murky, and unsettling. Laura Blundy is a tale of the unspeakable and tragic exigencies of loss and need - an eerily unforgettable love story.
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