Sunday, August 20, 2017

Penance, by Kanae Minato: definitely not for the faint hearted

9780376349154
Mullholland, 2017
originally published 2012 as Shokuzai (贖罪)
translated by Philip Gabriel
227 pp

paperback


"Otherwise, you'd get revenge."
                                     -- 157

One day five little girls who formed a circle of friends went out to play, but only four returned home.  According to the back-cover blurb, Emily ends up dead at the hands of an unknown assailant after the other girls are "tricked" into leaving her alone with him. Emily's case would go unsolved over the next fifteen years, which, coincidentally, as we learn from the translator's note at the beginning of the book, was the amount of time (before 2010)  allotted for the statute of limitations in the case of murder.  

One might guess from what I've just written that the focus of this book would be on finding the murderer and solving the old case before the fifteen years are up, but that's not quite how this story works.  Three years after Emily was killed, her mother invites the other four girls  -- Sae, Maki, Akiko, and Yuka (all now thirteen) to her home for cake, but it isn't a social occasion: she lets them know unequivocally that it is their fault her daughter is dead, that they are "all murderers," and gives them an ultimatum:

"I will never forgive you, unless you find the murderer before the statute of limitations is up. If you can't do that, then atone for what you've done, in a way I'll accept.  If you don't do either one, I'm telling you here and now -- I will have revenge on each and every one of you. I have far more money and power than your parents, and I'll make you suffer far worse than Emily ever did. I'm her parent, and I'm the only one who has that right." (71)

 Sheesh - it's a terrible enough burden to lay on four young girls, and it's one which has stayed with each of them for fifteen years, affecting each one differently as they grew into women.   The novel is composed of five first-person  accounts from all of the main characters, and examines how the murder and then the "curse" (so-called by the back-cover blurb) put on them by Emily's mother has followed them over the years.   All I will say so as not to ruin the story that unfolds here is that what emerges from each narrative is dark moving to darker as the author delves deep into each person's troubled psyche.

The question to keep in mind (in my opinion) while reading is not exactly one of whodunit, but more to the point, it becomes a matter of who is actually responsible for Emily's death.   In that sense there is a sort of tragic irony underpinning the novel which brings it back full circle to where it begins. I'll let others discover how this is so, but in the meantime, Penance is deeply disturbing on many, many levels so reader beware.

Penance is neither for faint-hearted readers, nor is it a novel for those who prefer happy endings.  It goes well beyond a standard crime novel, moving swiftly into psychological territory, where some readers may not wish to find themselves.   Trust me on that one.


crime fiction from Japan


Saturday, August 19, 2017

diabolical craziness: *The Notting Hill Mystery, by Charles Warren Adams

9781464204807
Poisoned Pen Press, in association with the British Library, 2015
originally serialized 1862-1863; originally published 1865
176 pp

paperback

Good grief -- this book might possibly win the award for most convoluted murder mystery I've ever read, but it's definitely fun.

The Notting Hill Mystery was first serialized in 1862 in the magazine Once A Week, with authorship attributed to a Charles Felix.  In the introduction to this edition from Poisoned Pen Press, Mike Ashley reveals that while Charles Felix had written an earlier novel in 1864, it wasn't until 2011 that his true identity was revealed.  As "bibliophile" Paul Collins notes in a New York Times Sunday Book Review article from January 7, 2011, it wasn't an easy job:
"After months of investigating with the dogged tenacity of Ralph Henderson pursuing Baron R**, I was no closer than Symons in discovering the solution. Even an 1868 “Handbook of Fictitious Names” didn’t help: Felix is listed, but next to his pseudonym is nothing but a mockingly empty pair of brackets. More mysteriously, correspondence with the man is entirely missing from the archive of Saunders, Otley & Company, his book publisher."
Collins stuck with his quest and eventually his dogged determination was rewarded when just at the point of giving up, he "...stumbled upon a Literary Gossip column in The Manchester Times for May 14, 1864," where "the sole identification of Charles Felix had lain there for 146 years, hidden" in one sentence:
"It is understood that 'Velvet Lawn,' by Charles Felix, the new novel announced by Messrs. Saunders, Otley & Co., is by Mr. Charles Warren Adams, now the sole representative of that firm."
 The entire story appeared over eight installments into 1863, and was quite popular with readers.  According to Julian Symons in his Bloody Murder, the book was very likely an attempt to "repeat the success of The Woman in White," complete with its own Count Fosco-like villain, but was in "several ways an original work." (51) It is reputedly the first modern English detective novel, and Adams gave it a number of new, innovative twists and ingredients that set it apart from other books featuring detectives that were quite popular at the time.  For one thing, the detective here, Ralph Henderson, has nothing at all to do with the police; instead he is an agent collecting evidence for an insurance company.   For another, the book is filled with elements such as a cryptic fragment of a letter in French, a marriage certificate, statements and depositions from several witnesses, and even a floor plan of a victim's home.  Old hat you may say -- we've certainly seen the likes of those sorts of things in tons of books we've read, but while we take them for granted,  back then these were all new additions to the standard detective stories of the time. There are overlapping layers of narrative that bring with them not only new levels of mystery, but which bring the reader ever closer to the truth of what has actually happened.

The Notting Hill Mystery presents, as I said, a most convoluted murder mystery.  Ralph Henderson is trying to determine the truth behind the death of a woman after her husband had taken out several policies on her life totaling 25,000 pounds.  The novel is his report to the Secretary of the ____ Life Assurance Association, and he lays out two "alternatives" which "present themselves" after careful consideration of the evidence.  He himself, as he says, is unable to decide between the two, so offers his facts "in the form in which they would be laid before counsel."

The murderer's identity here is pretty obvious, as is the method of the main murder  (there are more than one at play here) but that's only a small part of the story given everything else that's going on here.  Mesmerism is a huge element of this story, about which Roger Luckhurst at The British Library website says
"In the 1830s and 1840s, for instance, there was a craze for Mesmerism, in which miraculous medical cures could be affected by manipulating the invisible flows of 'animal magnetism' that passed through and between bodies. The Mesmerist would throw his subject into a trance, allowing the passage of energy into the weaker body of his patient, as if literally recharging their battery."
 But wait, there's more.  This twisted knot of a novel also includes twin sisters who have an abnormal "sympathy" -- an ability to psychically feel the other's pain -- who are separated as small children when one is stolen by Gypsies.  Then there's the Baron R**, the authority on Mesmerism who just happens to be on hand to take care of the remaining and now-married sister in her adult life, as she is rather sickly.  There's also the Baron's wife, a medium who has wide feet from her career as a tightrope walker, and really, so much more is going on here that all contributes to the "convoluted" story that takes place in this short but fun novel.

I could go on but the fun is in uncovering the diabolical craziness at work here. As Symons says, the methodology underlying the murder may seem "preposterous to us," but it "seemed much less ridiculous to the Victorians," a hugely important point to consider while reading this novel.  I actually chuckled a number of  times while reading this book, but at the same time, I was completely engrossed and couldn't wait to see Henderson's conclusions at the end.  It's that kind of book, really -- as silly as it may seem, I just couldn't help myself turning pages while wondering if the murderer would actually be caught and if so, if he could even be prosecuted.

It's also an important milestone in the history of detection novels, written well before Sherlock first made an appearance in print. I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the history of crime writing/crime fiction, and also to anyone who loves discovering something quite off the beaten path.  Even though it might make you groan inwardly here and there or do the inner eyeroll at places, I just loved it.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pietr the Latvian, by Georges Simenon -- the very first Maigret novel and it's a good one.

9780141392738
Penguin Classics, 2013
first published in serial as Pietr-le-Letton, 1930
translated by David Bellos
162 pp

paperback

"Inside every wrong-doer and crook there lives a human being."

Due to the nature of his job, my husband travels a lot, and that's the time I watch foreign television.  Normally at my house TV comes on about 7:30 pm and goes off about 10:30, but when the spouse is away, viewing time has been known to start much earlier and sometimes last until the sun comes up the next day.  Over the last few weeks of his intermittently being gone, I've slowly been watching the French-language production of Maigret on MHz, starring Bruno Cremer in the title role; on  arriving at season two, I decided that I really need to read these books.

I'm no stranger to Simenon's work, but the Maigret books have just been sitting here gathering dust for eons. Most of them are the old Penguin versions from way back when, but I'm slowly replacing those with the Penguin Classics editions for my home library.  


Bruno Cremer, who in my opinion is Maigret


Pietr the Latvian is the first of several (and I do mean several) books in this series, written over forty-plus years of Simenon's life.  As the novel opens, the Detective Chief Inspector has learned that an internationally-known, "Extremely clever and dangerous" criminal known as Pietr the Latvian is on his way to Paris on board the Étoile du Nord.  At the station as the passengers begin to depart, Maigret lies eyes on his quarry, whose physical traits he's memorized carefully.  At that moment, there's a flurry of excitement, and it turns out that there's been a body found  in Carriage 5 of the train. To Maigret's surprise, the body turns out to be that of  the man Maigret's been waiting for -- none other than Pietr the Latvian.  Or is it?   This is where the case begins, one that will become even more enigmatic before it is solved.

It's here that we begin to understand Maigret and his methods.  He is relentless to a fault as he dogs his quarry through the streets of Paris in the pouring rain, and he employs all the current tools of the profession.  But there's more to police methodology at play here -- Maigret also uses his head.  He's developed what he calls his "theory of the crack in the wall:"
"Inside every wrong-doer and crook there lives a human being. In addition, of course, there is an opponent in a game, and it's the player that the police are inclined to see. As a rule, that's what they go after." 
But Maigret has learned to bide his time, because
"...what he sought, what he waited and watched out for, was the crack in the wall. In other words, the instant when the human being comes out from behind the opponent."
In this case, that patience and particular ability will serve him well, but along the way to that "instant" he will undergo a lot of inner turmoil as things get to the point where it becomes, as Maigret says, "between them and me."

While being an armchair detective is fun here because of the puzzler Simenon gives us, more importantly my attention was drawn to the final chapters where all is unraveled.  Even then, it's not so much the solution -- instead I noticed that what comes out of these last few pages is the very stuff of his excellent romans durs, in which, as John Banville noted in the New York Review of Books in 2015:
"... a man who has spent his life in servitude to family, work, society, suddenly lays down his burden -- 'Lord, how tired he was now!' -- and determines to live for the moment, and for himself, in full acceptance of the existential peril his decision will expose him to."
What that "existential peril" is in this book I won't say.  However, while many readers may see Pietr the Latvian, or for that matter any of the Maigret mysteries as yet just another police procedural, it goes well beyond that into examining just what it is underneath someone's exterior self that leads him or her to do what they do. In short -- I get the feeling that as I travel through the Maigret mysteries, I'll find myself in the mind of a policeman  who genuinely understands human nature, and that's a place I want to be.

Once again, anyone considering reading this book should be aware of the times in which this book was written because there is some definite racial/ethnic stereotyping being done here, but I can definitely recommend the novel to crime readers of all sorts.



crime fiction from Belgium


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

thank you, Feedspot!

For some bizarre reason, Feedspot has awarded the crime portion of my reading journal (this thing I'm posting to right now) a slot in their top 50 crime novel blogs for crime readers and authors this year.  I am honored because I'm in the company of bloggers I hold in great awe.

I actually started doing this for my own entertainment, since my husband travels a LOT for work and I needed something to occupy my time, but now I'm addicted to doing it.   Lately I've been picking an overall topic to sort of guide my reading -- this year it's a brief history/survey of crime fiction through World War I.  I like to think people read what I have to say but I don't count on it and I'm not doing this to be noticed, but because I think it's fun.  This year has been an eye opener in terms of the history of crime literature, and not just in terms of the fiction.

So thank you people at Feedspot, and to anyone else who happens to land here.

I may never get here again, but I'll always have the badge:





*Recollections of a Detective Police-Officer, by 'Waters' -- by William Russell

ASIN: B009IJS9SO
2012,
serialized 1849-1853;  this volume originally published in book form, 1859
Ulan Books, 262 pp

softcover

Oh I am so bummed! I didn't even notice that I had bought Volume 2 -- in fact, I didn't know there was a volume 1 until just now, when I read the preface where the author mentions "the very flattering reception" of his first book. Oh well -- I'm sure the first is very much like this one, and it's basically a collection of short stories, so I suppose in the long run it doesn't matter.   

Recollections of a Detective Police-Officer belongs in the category of fictional detective memoirs, which were all the rage back in their day.  According to the Cambridge History of Victorian Literature, the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 allowed for the creation of a Detective Branch  in 1842, which ultimately became the CID in 1877.   According to a brief article on "The History of Scotland Yard" in Smithsonian Magazine
"When the Yard sent out its first plainclothes police agents in 1842, the public felt uncomfortable with these 'spies' on the streets."
Opponents felt that
"...in the disguise of plain clothes, police officers would be free to spy, incite and resort to deceitful means and corrupt practices, and in fact to engage in the kind of behaviour expected of continental police forces, particularly in France, Austria and Russia." 
Eventually, though, as the Smithsonian article reveals, the detectives came to be more accepted among the public as a result of the force having solved "several important cases;"  the "charisma of many" of the Yard's detectives also helped "to win the people's trust."  Once these detectives were out in the field,  as Haia Shpayer-Makov notes in this article,
"With the creation of detective departments in the country, and growing media interest in the activities of their agents, particularly working in London, more and more police detective figures entered fiction." 
Waters is one of these fictional detectives and his exploits were serialized "intermittently" from 1849 to 1853 in Chambers [Edinburgh] Journal.  His adventures turned out to be immensely popular,


from The First Hundred Years of Detective Fiction, 1841-1941
and were printed as "yellowbacks,"  which "came about due to a confluence of supply and demand." The supply side came as a result in technological advances in "machine-made books," resulting in lower book prices, making them more available to a much bigger audience.  The demand side, according to the Center for Digital Scholarship at Emory University,
"...came not just from the lower cost of books but also the social changes that occurred during the 19th century.  The industrial revolution saw a concentration of the population in cities like London and Manchester, a growing middle class and higher literacy rates.  The urban population had more leisure time to devote to reading while the invention of the train created a new demand for books to be read while traveling."
These yellowbacks were "the Victorian equivalent of a cheap paperback that you might read on the bus or on a plane."

All righty -- now that we're done with historical part (trust me, I could wax on forever about this stuff so you're lucky) -- on to the book itself.

As I said earlier, it seems as though I've picked up the second volume (my understanding is that there are three), but my guess is that the same sort of thing would be found in the others.  The detective who solves all of these crimes is the fictional "Waters," whose first name starts with a C, as noted in the preface of my edition, which is signed "C.W." Waters here investigates eight crimes including blackmail, forgery, lots of bigamy (mainly due to greedy people who want to get their hands on an inheritance), arson, theft, murder and fraud.  He takes us anywhere from stately British homes to farms to the slums, so there is a wide range of socioeconomic situations portrayed here.  While once in a while we hear the results of the arrests Waters makes, there also seems to be better solutions than just  legal justice in some stories when all is said and done.  In the case of the story "Mark Stretton," for example, the evildoer is arrested but jumps bail and leaves the country, which Waters saw as "the wisest course" for the sake of the woman involved.    This sort of thing happens more than once, and in the case of the bigamists, compromises for settling parts of an inheritance are happily made so that the innocent don't have to suffer.  Waters doesn't mince words about the people in his adventures -- one woman who knowingly committed adultery and seeks to profit from it was called a "limb of Satan;" a wife whom one man felt compelled to marry for her fortune is labeled as a "shrew," and well, let's just say our modern sensibilities about ethnicity aren't respected here (nor should they be, really) as one character gets the moniker of "The Jew," complete with stereotype.  Most of what we learn about detective work is that it's a lot of watching and waiting until Waters is sure he has enough evidence against his quarry to make a case that will stick; he also enlists locals in his efforts as informants as well.  He's no Sherlock Holmes, but the adventures are never dull.


Out of the eight stories here, my favorite has to be "Fire-Raising,"  which is really the best whodunit of the collection.  In most of these tales, we already know who is doing what to whom and it's just a matter of waiting them out, gathering evidence, etc., before Waters makes his move.  Here the situation is a bit different, since the mystery is focused on who is the arsonist doing mayhem in a local farm district in Essex.  The perpetrator is very clever, able to create a fire that won't actually erupt in flames for a matter of hours afterwards. I have to say that he set this one up quite nicely and I didn't figure out the who, for which I am quite grateful.


Overall, it's a fun collection of stories that belongs in the library of anyone interested in the history of crime fiction/mystery, or anyone interested in Victorian crime fiction in general. For those who don't hoard books like I do, there are also a variety of places online for downloads.  This book closes out the 1850s so onward I go.



Thursday, July 20, 2017

Kill the Next One, by Federico Axat

9780316354219
Mulholland/Little, Brown and Company 2017
originally published as La última salida, 2016
translated by David Frye
407 pp

hardcover

"Open the door. It's your only way out."

As soon as I turned the last page of this  novel I had to question (once again) the publisher's decision to a) change the title and b) come up with a dustjacket blurb that hardly matches what goes in in this book.  I'm afraid I don't understand either, since when all is said and done, the original Spanish title is much more reflective of the nature of what happens here and the blurb is sort of misleading re the story as a whole.  I'm not surprised that so many readers were frustrated with this book, since they were expecting one thing and got something completely different.  I bought this one based on the fact that it's a crime novel from Argentina more than for any other reason -- I love translated crime, and I especially like to try out the work from authors who are new to me.

Let's get back to that blurb, referring to the main character of the story, Ted McKay, who as the novel opens, is on the edge of shooting himself in the head to end it all.  He's at home,  locked into his own study; his wife Holly is away on vacation with their two daughters, and he's even been thoughtful enough to leave a note telling Holly where he's left the key to the study and not to let the kids in after she opens the door.  As he works up the courage to shoot himself, a "barrage of shouts and banging" at the door draw his attention, and he knows that "he'd have no choice but to see what it was all about."   He opens it to find a man he doesn't know standing there, but strangely, the man, who gives his name as Justin Lynch, somehow knows Ted's name. Ted slams the door closed once again, but Lynch is persistent and through the door  reveals to Ted that he knows what he's about to do with the gun, and if Ted would open the door, he promises not to try to stop him. After a bit of time, Lynch comes right to the point and
"...makes him a proposition: why not kill two deserving men before dying? The first target is a criminal, and the second is a man with terminal cancer, who, like Ted, wants to die."
The tradeoff for Ted is that
 "after executing these kills, Ted will become someone else's next target, like a kind of suicidal daisy chain." 
It's an idea that Ted doesn't necessarily dismiss and he even goes as far to work out a plan but, of course, things don't exactly work out in the way he (or we) expected, diverging in a very, very big way.  That bit of plot  will come back much later, but in a hugely different fashion that allowed for an "aha" moment by the time I got there.  I can't really go into too much detail here because saying pretty much anything would constitute a major spoiler and ruin the reading experience, but the point is that while we actively start with the blurb's premise in mind, it turns out that that's not really the story at all.


from We Know Your Dreams

Kill the Next One messed with my head for quite a while, because it is one of those stories where things seem to make sense and yet they don't if you are reading carefully; things tend to move and change quickly here making it even more of a head scratcher.  Even as things start to become a little clearer, it's like being in a gradually-lifting fog where you can sort of make out shapes but you know that your vision is still a bit distorted; it isn't until the very end that everything comes into focus.  The enigmatic in any novel appeals to me; this book is like one giant puzzle where pieces are gradually filled in but there is still a lot of space on the table before the full picture emerges.

It's neither a great nor perfect book by any means with character issues that crop up,  lengthy, sometimes over-the-top scenes that could have been pared down quite a bit to give the story more punch, and it seems to me that there were still some things that could have been a bit more fleshed out (especially considering the real story underpinning everything here)  but even with its issues,  it has a sort of eerieness about it that made it a worthwhile, page-flipping, and entertaining read that I had trouble putting down.

 My advice to potential readers: don't look at reviews that give away the show because as you move away from the expected into deeper, darker territory, you really don't want to know beforehand what's coming at you -- it will totally ruin things. While I've seen it referred to as a thriller, it really moves into that territory only toward the end; before that though, it's much more in the psychological category, but even that may be saying too much about it.

Monday, July 17, 2017

*Paul Ferroll, by Caroline Clive


9781934555613
Valancourt Books, 2008
originally published 1855
256 pp

paperback

First things first: anyone who loves old mystery/crime novels should check out Valancourt Books -- they are my favorite small indie press and they specialize in obscure or forgotten titles, perfect for die-hard bookworms like me who prefer works published in the past. I'm very sure  that other people don't get as worked up as I do about finding new old authors to read, but it's something that's quite meaningful to me so it's a big deal. So many male writers from this time period have names and work that have never been forgotten or have yet to lapse into obscurity, but that's not the case with a huge number of female writers, especially those whose work crosses into the crime/mystery area. 

Now on with the show -- I discovered Paul Ferroll while reading Kate Watson's Women Writing Crime Fiction 1860-1880.  Watson notes that Paul Ferroll is  "further evidence of women writers challenging convention and contributing to the nascent crime and detective genre." (23)  Caroline Clive (1801-1873) was a British poet as well as novelist; she published her first book, a volume of religious essays in 1827 under the pseudonym of, oddly enough, Paul Ferroll.  Her second book, a collection of poetry, was published in 1840 under the name of V.; Paul Ferroll was her first novel, followed by another (which I'll also talk about here) in 1860. As the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography tells us, accidents in 1860 and 1863 left her confined to a wheelchair before she suffered a stroke in 1865; two days after sustaining injuries from her dress catching on fire in her library, she died in 1873. 

When Paul Ferroll was first published, it was both praised and condemned by critics. According to the introduction in this edition, its earliest reviewers thought it had "power and originality," while at the same time found fault with its "subject matter and lack of moral comment."   Watson reveals that writer Elizabeth Gaskell was an advocate for this novel; another scholar reveals that she had written a letter to Louis Hachette in France recommending it as a "work of fiction of remarkable merit."  She also noted that in Britain, "People here condemn the book as the work of a she-devil," but that they were buying and reading it to the point that within six weeks, another edition had to be published.   According to one scholar who got her information from Desmond Flowers' A Century of Best Sellers, 1830-1930, Clive's novel went on to become "the British Bestseller of 1855," along with Westward Ho!, by Charles Kingsley.  For the most part, largely outside of academic circles, Paul Ferroll  has joined the ranks of other obscure, long-forgotten books that somehow rarely (and sadly) see the light of day any more.  One more thing -- in terms of this novel's placement in terms of early crime writing,  Lucy Sussex says in Women Writers and Detectives in Nineteenth-Century Crime Fiction that 

"Despite Paul Ferroll's success, in writing a detective-less novel Clive was working against the trend. During the 1850s the sleuth would increasingly occupy the centre of the text."

I found the character of Paul Ferroll to be pretty odious -- in modern parlance I thought he was a major jerk; but then again, I'm sure that Clive was leaving it to the reader to decide just what sort of person he is because every so often he has his moments of redemption, most especially toward the end of the novel.   What starts out quite peacefully with a picture of the "calm loveliness" falling over the Ferroll country home of the Tower of Mainwarey is interrupted with  Ferroll being summoned home with the news that "Your lady has been murdered," and indeed, she'd been found with her throat slit.  By whom was never really discovered, since the gardener, Mr. Franks, who'd been accused of her death was acquitted.  Ferroll gives Franks and his wife money to emigrate to Canada, after which Ferroll disappears for a "good while,"  only to return with new wife and "a little toddling child in tow."  As Janet, the Ferroll's daughter, grows into young womanhood, Ferroll remains aloof from his neighbors, ignores his daughter and actually seems to resent her presence in his home; it often sounds like he would have preferred it to have been just he and his wife Elinor living together. Neglecting Janet doesn't necessarily mean that he steps out of her life; he steadfastly refuses to allow her to have a relationship with the one young man who idolizes her, and fails to accompany her to social gatherings. 

Ferroll is considered an upstanding member of the community to the point where even when he is found guilty of murder after shooting and killing one of the ringleaders of a worker's riot, he receives a pardon. Time passes while the family spends time in France, and things are going pretty well for the Ferrolls until Mrs. Franks decides to return from Canada and is found with some of his dead wife's jewelry, at which point things take a rather strange turn.  For me, it turned out to be one of those stories where all you can do is to guess at the motivations behind the main character here, since right up until the last few pages, there is absolutely no clue as to why he does what he does.  It's frustrating, but it pays off. 

The ending of this novel caused no end of consternation, and it was likely because of this reason that Clive felt the necessity to add a "concluding notice" to a later edition of the book.  As Lucy Sussex states,  the book was " ... outrageous for the time." As she notes, 
"It lacked sanctimonious moralizing, then almost compulsory, as authors justified their satisfying of the popular demand for thrilling crime." (65)
Clive, whom Sussex notes as being "sensitive to audience reaction," ended up writing a prequel to this book in 1860 that sets the scene prior to Ferroll's wife's murder.  In doing so, Sussex believes (as do I) that Clive managed to retreat "from the apparent amorality" at the end of Paul Ferroll by offering an excuse as to why the first Mrs. Ferroll may have been killed.  We know from Paul Ferroll that she was an awful person, but after having read the prequel, I can solemnly swear that the woman was a nasty piece of work, pulling out all the possible stops in order to have her way.   I'm leaving the title of that particular book out of this post -- anyone who may be interested can find it through any of the links above, but beware -- all of the names have changed with only one exception -- and considering that Paul Ferroll's name appears in the title of that book, well, one would expect to find a character so named, but even his name has been changed. Don't let it throw you off -- while that book isn't nearly as well done as this one, it's still worth reading.

My advice for anyone who may consider reading Paul Ferroll is not to read anything that gives away the complete plot of this story because really, the fun here is in getting to the end of the book.  It's extremely tame in terms of modern-day crime reading, but once again, it was worthwhile because it was a good story and more importantly, because I've unearthed yet another author I'd never heard of before.