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Tuesday 27 November 2012

‘Devoured’ by D E Meredith

 Published by Allison & Busby,
20 Aug 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-1275-5

Set in 1856, this is a story about two pioneer forensic investigators, Professor Adolphus Hatton and his assistant, Albert Roumande.  The initial crime that takes their attention is the murder of a society lady and intellectual, Lady Bessingham but soon there are other gruesome murders, including a Cambridge don whose corpse has been treated like a taxidermist's specimen.

The book opens with a letter written by explorer and botanist Benjamin Broderig to Lady Bessingham, his patron, who has subsidised his voyage.  Similar letters are dotted throughout the book and provide oblique clues to the reason behind the crimes. As well as Hatton and Roumande, Broderig involves himself in the investigation, which is led by Inspector George Adams of Scotland Yard, a 'celebrity' detective much praised in the newspapers.

Devoured is a very complex and dark book, exploring the poverty and squalor of Victorian London; the callous way in which wealthy Victorians exploited their unspoiled corners of their empire and the violent passions roused by the new theories regarding evolution.  The forensic scenes are authentic and disturbing, not just in the grim details of a post mortem but also in the callous lack of respect many Victorians showed to the poor, especially to murdered prostitutes.

It is the first book in a series featuring Hatton and Roumande.  The two men have very different characters and lifestyles but their respect and affection for each other is made very clear, as is their passion for the new science of forensics, which is still in its early stages and is little respected in Victorian times.  Hatton and Roumande have a very good relationship which promises to be developed in future books.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
D E Meredith After reading English at Cambridge, Denise trained in advertising during the late 80s but quickly grew tired of the world of Coco-Pops and so jumped ship to work as a campaigner for conservation causes, before moving swiftly into the press office at the British Red Cross, where she  realised that her passion for justice was more than equal to her love of Nature.  Working for the Red Cross meant that she got to visit many extraordinary places at key moments in their history: Afghanistan just before it fell to the Taliban, Rwanda as it was her a unique view into suffering. But she also met some incredible people, who gave up everything to help others.  Having a young family, she had little choice but to leave the war zones behind her. Next she worked as a consultant on campaigning and media relations for WWF, Greenpeace, Help the Aged, the IUCN and many others. She now lives a fairly simple life – a writer’s life – in a London village called St Margaret’s, which had its fair share of murders and writers. It was once was home to Charles Dickens, J.M.W. Turner and Percy Bysshe Shelley (but not at the same time!). The Thames, the verdant meadows and the miles of Victorian architecture are constant sources of delight, as well as that wonderfully intangible thing writers like to call “material.”

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a core contributor to Women's Weekly.  She also writes contemporary and historical crime and is currently looking for an agent or publisher.  An Adult Education teacher, Carol has always maintained that writing and reading fiction is good for people and has spent much of her career facilitating Creative Writing for disabled people.

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