Ghastly Business by Louise Levene

On a grey London morning in 1929, Dora Strang left her lodgings to catch the bus to go to work for the very first time.

She sat quietly, unnoticed, listening to a group of women discussing a scandalous murder case. They didn’t know that, very soon, Dora would know every detail of that case.

Because Dora was going to work for the distinguished pathologist, Doctor Alfred Kemble.

Dora, a doctor’s daughter, proved to be very capable and efficient, and she learned a good deal. She would work very closely with Doctor Kemble. Maybe too closely.

Doctor Kemble, a man with intelligence, charisma, self-confidence and an air of mystery intrigued her. I understood why, but it worried me. Because something was not quite right, and surely no good could come of it …

And that’s as much as I’m going to say about the story. It twisted very cleverly, and in ways that I didn’t expect, so it would be wrong to give anything away.

I loved the way it avoided the obvious, and I loved that things weren’t tied up too neatly.

Louise Levene captures time and place perfectly, and she writes wonderfully, with wit, with a lovely turn of phrase, and with such verve that it is quite impossible to resist being swept along.

She can do characters, and she has assembled a fine cast: Dora’s landlady, strong on pest control and weak on cookery, was a particular delight.

She can do set pieces too: from postmortem, to courtroom scenes, to a dinner party from hell. All quite fascinating to observe in such a different era.

The only thing I had an issue with was the pacing. After that intriguing opening things moved slowly for a long time, until, suddenly, I found myself struggling to keep up with a rush of events towards the end.

I held on, first waiting patiently and then working hard to keep track of what was going on.

Because I was intrigued, because I was puzzled, and because there was so much to enjoy along the way.

And, in the end, I was not disappointed.

8 responses

  1. This sounds amazing, I like books with mysterious plot lines that you can’t wait to uncover. I’ve never heard of it till now but can’t wait to read it. Great review.

  2. Pingback: Ghastly Business – Louise Levene |

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