Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Review: The Devil's Grin by Annelie Wendeberg

One of the first things I learned as an adult was that knowledge and fact meant nothing to people who were subjected to an adequate dose of fear and prejudice.
- Dr. Kronberg

London, 1889. When a cholera victim is found floating in London's drinking water supply, Dr. Kronberg, England's best bacteriologist, is called to investigate. Also on the case is an eccentric, intriguing, intellectually incomparable man... Sherlock Holmes. Holmes, being Holmes, discovers Dr. Kronberg's secret: the dangerous double life she lives in order to practise medicine, a profession not acceptable for a woman in Victorian England.

Kronberg and Holmes are brought together by a murder mystery, but there appears to be more between them than the desire to solve the case. Holmes meets his match in intelligence and deductive talents. The dialogue between the two is constant sparring where words left unsaid speak as much as those uttered aloud. They are masters at reading between the lines and never stop trying to figure each other out.

This book has a great, gritty setting and a potentially fascinating protagonist. Anna Kronberg is a strong, courageous woman and a dedicated physician who has her scars (literally and metaphorically) and her weaknesses. Her life in the world of men isn't easy, and the decisions she is forced to make as the investigation proceeds are morally questionable – and they will haunt her all her life. However, her portrayal doesn't quite have the depth that I need to fall in love with a character.

'The Devil's Grin' is both entertaining and thought-provoking. The writing is solid and the main character has an interesting voice, but there were some instances where the language didn't feel quite right for the setting.

I wish the book had been longer; while I got a sense that the author and the protagonist were capable of deeper reflection, there was little time for that. There were moments where tension could have been tighter and moments where I wished for more emotional involvement. In hopes that some of the questions left unanswered will be solved and the characters further developed, I might well read the next book in the Kronenberg Crimes series.

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