Friday, August 15, 2008

Book Review: "The Great Stink"

I hope no reader would pick up Clare Clark's The Great Stink and expect sweetness and light. You'll get none of it. This is a well-written descent into the very depths of depravity, even if it's sometimes too heavy on the gory details (this is not a book to be read during mealtimes).

Combining a murder mystery with a Dickensian (the adjective if overused, but when the shoe fits, it must be worn) legal wrangle, Clark writes as crisply and vividly about the intricate details of London's early Victorian sewer development and the associated bureaucratic nightmares as she does about the intimate and disturbing aspects of her characters' lives (her main character, William May, is a Crimean War vet manifesting very severe symptoms of what would probably be diagnosed now as PTSD).

While somewhat predictable in terms of plot, Clark's writing style makes this very much worth a read. But don't say I didn't warn you - this is not for the queasy. Several times I had to put it away for a day or two in favor of something more pleasant. But when I finished it, I was glad to have done so.