So, I attempted to read this last year and this is what happened. I said last time I would try again in a year and...here I am. I had actually forgotten how little I cared for it.
And then I started reading it.
I'm going to try to get at least to where we see some actually plot but I'm not holding my breath.
Err. I don't really know what to say about this book. Really.
Because the audiobook went in one ear and out the other. I remember bits and pieces but it resembled nothing so much as a continuous noise you slowly cease to be able to hear.
Part of it was that I never could quite catch the flow of the text. The idea...I think...was to come at the rise in interest of murder during the Victorian times (and slightly before) from a romantic, almost poetic view. The author framed the cases, many of them the exact same ones covered by Lucy Worsley in The Art of the English Murder, around Thomas de Quincy. It was an interesting take...but I never seemed to reach the point of it all.
Now, I was listening to this at the same time (not reading and listening at once but going back and forth) as The Science of Sherlock Holmes, so it could be I kept confusing the two and simply remember the one I took notes on. But while they shared some similarities, none of it really overlapped at any one time. And wouldn't one be more likely to enforce the other if they covered similar information?
I'm tempted to say this simply isn't a book to be listened to. And while I think there's truth to that, I don't believe it was the only reason. Certainly the narrator was not by any means the worst I've found. I've gotten through truly monotone narrators and still remembered the information.
No, I think some of the fault lies with the writing itself but how much, I don't know. I do plan to attempt this again but read it the next time. But that won't be anytime soon. I may be interested in what the author has to say, but I need to forget how I first encountered it.
Finally! This book has waited too long. First it languished on my TBR list for...3+ years and then when I at last sit down to read it, it took forever. In my defense, I think I read this at exactly the right time. I knew many of the cases by name (from The Art of the English Murder and others) and I'd read other books dealing with the history of forensics. So I knew there were going to be some difficult parts.
You could tell Wagner taught these subjects. There is a clear sense of time spent with the information and that she knows how to get to the necessary parts quickly but in a way the reader can understand. My biggest complaint is that Holmes seemed to fall by the wayside. Oh, there were mentions of him throughout each chapter but I feel like the information overwhelmed his presence. I think, personally, that was from the author's great presentation but still, I picked this up for Holmes. She did show how some of the cases might have influenced (and I think, given the corresponding elements, did) Doyle and the stories. The Kent murder mirrors The Sussex Vampire story quite a bit.
The chapter though, were grueling. Wagner describes a Victorian morgue in such detail, I swear I could smell it. I felt like it was a test from the author. If you made it through that segment, you could handle the rest. Switching to superstitious myths of black dogs almost gave me mental whiplash.
With a glossary in the back and an extensive bibliography, this is the type of non-fiction book I look for. The author doesn't pull in punches or consider the reader stupid, but writes so that a layman can understand.
If you have an interest in forensic science, the history of crime and famous cases, or just want to learn where Holmes stood in his time period, this is a great book. Just be warned if you have a weak stomach; there are some segments in here that are a bit more than you may be bargaining for.
Reading Updates (contains lots of notes and links to famous cases):