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Thursday, 14 June 2018

‘The Industry of Human Happiness’ by James Hall


Published by Lightning Books,
24 May 2018. 
ISBN: 978-1-78563080-4

The Victorian world at the end of the nineteenth century is beautifully evoked by James Hall.  His pages teem with the vitality of the area around Covent Garden in 1899.  The protagonist, Max, with his cousin, Rusty, has started a gramophone business and they are endeavouring to build up their repertoire of records.  The murky backstage world of the theatres, pubs and restaurants is the one in which Max and Rusty operate.  The details of their ways of recording in this primitive area are fascinating.  Music is the staff of life to Max but Rusty has more interest in the mechanics of the machines.

They have persuaded a renowned Italian opera singer to record for them but, soon after, he is murdered.    There is a back story to the lives of the two men with ghosts from the past to contend with.  Even in their business they face threats from rivals.   More seriously their own relationship has enormous rifts in it.   

The murder of the opera singer marks a beginning of a new and deadly stage in the challenges facing Rusty and Max.  More deaths follow and the solution to them proves hard to find.

This is an exciting story well told.
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Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
This is a first novel.

James Hall is a music journalist and author. The Industry of Human Happiness is his first novel. The book is historical fiction with a crime twist. Set in the murky theatres and music halls of late Victorian London, the novel celebrates the magic of music and the indomitable spirit of the early recording pioneers.  James has written for The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Observer, the FT and The Sunday Telegraph. As one of the music writers and critics for the Telegraph, he has reviewed shows by everyone from Beyoncé to U2 and from Kanye West to Paul McCartney.


Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.





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