Avon Street: A Tale of Murder in Victorian Bath
One night, one rash act, one crime changed James Daunton's life for ever. Robbed of everything he once had, and trapped in a merciless vendetta, James must now take on Nathaniel Caine and his gang to survive. Alone, he cannot hope to win, but to find allies he needs to learn to trust in a world of betrayal. Each of those who promise help has their own secrets, hidden in silences, half-truths, and lies. And asked if it is fate, destiny, or simply chance that brings them together, each of them would have a different answer. Avon Street is an historical adventure story that takes the reader on a journey behind the Georgian façades of the city to expose the darker side of Victorian Bath. It is a book about the potential that lies, often unlocked or unrecognised, in all of us.
I enjoyed this historical novel. It is set in Bath in 1850, and although it is not a “true story”, it is based on real facts and events. Historical novels set in Bath are not unusual, but they are generally a little more genteel than this one, which looks at both the moneyed classes and the destitute classes and how the two merge with tragic results.
The main protagonist, James Daunton, has been a successful solicitor, but he is weak and undiscerning in some of his friendships. I enjoyed the way we see him reach rock bottom, but then with cunning, conscience and good friends from different walks of life he climbs out of the pit he has made for himself. All the characters, from the sleazy, unprincipled crooks to the working classes to the professional classes are all written well – the women as well as the men – and given equal exposure.
The descriptions of the town were very atmospheric. It would have been really handy to have a map of Bath as it was in 1850 – even one on the author’s or publisher’s website would have been good.
The author has clearly done a good deal of research, but doesn’t pile it on to keep reminding the reader he has – he seamlessly weaves it in amongst the storyline to give a vivid account of life of the period. There were a few times, especially before I really got into the story, where I forgot I was reading a historical book and I felt the language didn’t quite fit with the era and I had to make an effort to keep my mind in Victorian times, but once I had got into the rhythm of the story I could picture it better.
There are several characters, and I enjoyed how they interacted. I felt that some of the relationships were a little too “easy”, but that could have been my misconception of what I thought they should be like (from those other, genteel, novels).
I liked that everyone’s story was wrapped up so the reader isn’t left dangling, but I think the wrapping up could have been given a few more pages and done with more of a storyline rather than “this is what happened to him and this is what happened to her”. There is a little too much telling and not enough showing throughout the book, but that is a minor quibble, as overall it makes a cracking good tale that I enjoyed reading.
I enjoyed the unusual perspectives, I enjoyed the cunning and the unfolding of the plots and events leading up to a final showdown, and I enjoyed the non-traditional friendships and the slightly unexpected outcomes for the main characters. I liked that there were strong females and that they didn’t come over all unnecessary at the slightest hint of impropriety or danger, but nor were they unrealistically brave.
I would recommend this book to readers that like a slightly more gritty historical novel, and readers that know Bath. You don’t have to know Bath to enjoy the story, but being familiar with the city does give an added dimension to the pleasure of reading (I used to work there and so know it well).
I am looking forward to Paul Emanuelli’s next book, which I have read is set partly in Midsomer Norton near Bath – another town I am very familiar with.
Editorial Input & Design
Another developmental edit would perhaps have tightened the story a little and provided more show not tell, but other than that this is a professionally produced book.
Cover: Lovely, meaningful and atmospheric. Iconic Bath.
Internal design: I read this on a Kindle and had no problems.
Book Clubs & Reviews
I would say this would make a nice book club choice. There is plenty to discuss – how hard life was for people with few prospects in Victorian times; the city of Bath; the contrast between, say, Jane Austin’s Bath and Paul’s Bath; morals of the time; the gorgeous Theatre Royal, which is still there; and the life of an actress and other working-class people.
What others are saying: Amazon UK readers give it 4.7 stars (27 reviewers); no reviews on Amazon US; Goodreads readers give it 3.78 stars (23 ratings).
Buy & Author
Published by The History Press
hive.co.uk (paperback £8.71; ePub £3.60)
Kenny’s, Ireland (paperback €12.05, free worldwide postage)
Amazon (Kindle £2.39/$3.62; paperback £9.99/$14.81)
Follow the author:
Website unpublishedwriterblog.wordpress.com/ (Interesting blog posts on historical things and Bath and area)
Links of interest
Carol Hedges Interview with the author