I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: Silas de SanMichel Mysteries, #1
on January 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Boston, Winter of 1885.
A string of kidnappings plagues the snow-laden city of Boston while a murderer runs amok hunting and killing the unborn babies of they city’s social elite.
A powerful group called the Valentine Society controls the city’s police department, and the people of Boston’s last hope for justice lies in the hands of a man who mysteriously washes ashore from a distant foreign land, battered and bruised.
To complicate matters, he doesn’t remember who he is or where he’s from...
Just a week after he is found unconscious inside a cargo ship, Officer Silas de San Michel is thrust into a mysterious case dealing with the vicious killings of pregnant teenage girls. But what he doesn’t know is that these young girls belong to the secret Valentine Society, an elite group of Boston socialites that have corrupted the city's top officials, unashamedly operating above the law. With the help of his boss, the highly intelligent Inspector Belloc, and his lovely assistant, the boisterous and spirited Miss Posy Chapman, Silas embarks on a journey that takes him inside a secret world of rules and privileges, of oppressive parents and mischievous alliances. Weighed down by the sickness of memory loss, Silas struggles to maintain his sanity as he begins to discover the darkness plaguing his own sordid past, a darkness that ultimately brings him to the brink of becoming that which he hunts, a serial killer who was raised and trained by an insidious organization known only as The Factory.
2014 ended with massive book ennui for me. With surgery, recovery, holidays and more, not only did I have little time for reading, I also have little incentive or desire to do so. This was only made worse with the fact that I just couldn’t find a book to spark my interest. So, when I finally hopped back on NetGalley, I noticed several titles close to archive, and this book was the nearest to archival, so it got picked up. I can say with certainty this book succeeded in breaking the book ennui, but it didn’t succeed with a whole lot else.
This book begins moving at a great pace, where several scenarios are brought to light: a man has been found as a stowaway on a boat, near death, with no memory of who he is, where he’s come from or how he got on board. At the same time, unusual abductions are occurring in the poverty stricken areas of Boston, while foul murders of young pregnant women are occurring among the city’s affluent and elite societies. The quick transitions work not to give away any of the plot too quickly, and since early on a detective notes that “all mysteries are connected”, that is half the fun. Though the eventual plot does unfold without much surprise in the end, it is massively complex in the best way, and nothing is revealed too soon, so the overall ride isn’t jarring.
The characters in this book are quite trope-heavy. Silas is the endearing quirky Sherlock Holmes type with the capacity to notice and analyze his surroundings and develop wild physical skills unnaturally quickly. Despite having no memory of his formal life, he is unusually sharp, and morally hardlined to be the ‘good guy’. I also couldn’t stop picturing Benedict Cumberbatch. Belloc is the quick trusting, good natured older gent with the experience and the connections that make the movement of the plot and emotional attachment more convenient than natural. Posey was the worst, in that she is the quinessential ‘hard-to-get’ girl who acts unlikeable, dismissive and prickly, despite the obvious romantic interests stirring beneath the failing facade. Oh, and Posey’s fiance served no other purpose than to play ‘douchey chauvanist stereotype.’ He said the most bizarre things in the most unnatural settings, just to fill that role.
With the tropey characters, the romantic hints began early and were all too predictable. They came on too fast, then became too common, and even when the complex third wheel was introduced, they overtook real personality. This made evident one of the other major flaws of the writing: emotions were always very dramatic, very quickly. There was no room between placid and rage, no room for attraction without obsession. Subtlety and emotional range might have earned The Valentine Circle another half star in rating.
Also, since when is “how he handled things as he put them down on the table” an attractive quality? Girl, you need to get out more.
Though the content of the plot and events of the book are enjoyable, there are some very peculiar aspects of the author’s style that made it extremely awkward. Most importantly, everyone in this book talks out loud to themselves! Not only was it bizarre, it was unnatural, not normal, and out of place just about every time. This many people do not constantly mutter to themselves! The author would hugely benefit from adding internal thoughts, rather than having everything voiced out loud. It was so weird. Also, the exposition jumped around a lot, revealing random thoughts from characters who hadn’t even been introduced clearly. Often, it was as if the author needed to provide a clue, and couldn’t find another way to do it, so just threw it in the exposition.
Ultimately, this was a light quick read to start the year off with. There already is another confirmed book to follow, and I might be interested in picking it up…. if he fixes his very bizarre stylings.