Thursday, 6 July 2017

Soot by Andrew Martin

Book Review

Soot by Andrew Martin - Reading, Writing, Booking

"The murder of Matthew Harvey, painter of shades, had been much discussed in the city."

Soot is released in the UK today (6th July 2017). It is published by Corsair and written by Andrew Martin.

I was really excited to read Soot by Andrew Martin, a Georgian (I think) murder in atmospheric York. It's an original murder mystery, which is refreshing in this genre, which is both atmospheric and funny.


York, 1799.

In August, an artist is found murdered in his home - stabbed with a pair of scissors. Matthew Harvey's death is much discussed in the city. The scissors are among the tools of his trade - for Harvey is a renowned cutter and painter of shades, or silhouettes, the latest fashion in portraiture. It soon becomes clear that the murderer must be one of the artist's last sitters, and the people depicted in the final six shades made by him become the key suspects. But who are they? And where are they to be found?

Later, in November, a clever but impoverished young gentleman called Fletcher Rigge languishes in the debtor's prison, until a letter arrives containing a bizarre proposition from the son of the murdered man. Rigge is to be released for one month, but in that time, he must find the killer. If he fails, he will be incarcerated again, possibly for life.

And so, with everything at stake, and equipped only with copies of the distinctive silhouettes, Fletcher Rigge begins his search across the snow-covered city, and enters a world of shadows...

As soon as I read the blurb I knew I wanted to read Soot, I love murder mysteries and I love historical fiction, so this one crossed both genres. I was also intrigued by the original details; a shade printer and debtors prison, adding in something a little bit different to the usual glut of crime fiction.

Martin manages to make this book very atmospheric, you can imagine being in the dark and snowy streets of York and it creates the perfect background to a murder.

Soot is told in extracts from diaries, letters and newspapers. While this isn't anything new it does heighten the sense of mystery and investigation which makes this book read as the piecing together of a puzzle.

Martin is also good at creating interesting characters with depth, including the supporting characters. All the suspects in the mystery are interesting and not just two dimensional.

The main character Fletcher Rigge is intriguing. I like how his personality is slowly revealed through other character's opinions and dealings with him, and his own diary entries. He's a slightly naive but kindhearted ex-Aristocrat who clearly harbours some dark issues beneath his dandified surface.

There are lots of excellent elements in the book, like the setting and characters, and I did enjoy reading Soot but I felt like it never quite got going properly. It starts well with Rigge being hired to find a murderer using just the 'shades' of suspects, but I think the momentum fizzled out a little in the last half. There were also a few too many lucky coincidences with Fletcher pretty much just bumping into potential suspects at some points.

It's a bit of a let down because this book has so many good things going for it. But it's still enjoyable and something a bit different. I'm intrigued to read more of Martin's work.

My Rating: 3.5/5 (rounded up to 4 for Goodreads etc)

I receved a copy of Soot via NetGalley in return for an honest review. My thanks to the author and publisher.

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