The Pleasures of Men
Voice/Hyperion, Aug 7 2012, $15.99
In 1840 the Man of Crows serial killer has recession-rocked Londoners living in fear. He stabs his victims to death. However, his deadly signature is to stuff their plaited hair into their mouths; carve open their chest cavity; and place a penny on the heart.
Nineteen year old orphan Catherine Sorgeiul lives with her uncle Mr. Crenaban in a home marked by death masks and locked rooms forbidden to her. While she just wants to live with her Grace; her uncle wants to marry her off so he introduces her to Constantine Janisser whose extolled accomplishments have her sarcastically praising him to his amusement. She becomes interested when he mentions recent robberies near his office in which the thief leaves behind drawings of flora and fauna on the walls. Soon afterward Catherine, feeling an affinity to the Man of Crows’ deceased, writes about the victims and eventually the killer unaware of what she has wrought on herself and those close to her.
The Pleasures of Men is a superb early Victorian psychological suspense that grips the reader from the moment we meet Catherine whose essays note the sham of Victorian society when it comes to the plight of single women without protection even from a killer. Fast-paced this is a taut historical mystery.