I felt like a bit of a rebel picking up this book back in December because I got it from the library, and no one had asked me to read or review it for them, I was simply reading it for (gasp!) pleasure. By Gaslight by Steven Price is one of those books that I knew about, but hadn’t had the chance to read yet. I had heard so many good things about it, in fact, negative critiques of this novel are hard to come by, plus it features the famous detective William Pinkerton, so I knew I had to read it. Price is a Canadian author, best known for his poetry before this book was released so I was confident it would be written well too.
The book takes place in London, 1885. But it jumps around in time to tell the history of the main characters and how their lives intertwine. A great deal of the plot takes place during the American civil war on the battlefields actually, which surprised me, because I picked this up thinking we would stay firmly in London. Thank god it did cover so much ground because there is 700 plus pages to cover here, and multiple settings is necessary to keep the reader interested for such a long time. When the book opens we meet the William Pinkerton, who has arrived in London searching for famous thief Edward Shade. His reason for hunting this particular criminal down is due to the recent death of his father who was also a famous detective searching for Shade before he passed away. It’s not clear at the beginning how William knows about Shade, or why he is so important, but Price drops tiny clues for us along the way so readers are forced to use their own detective skills to make sense of this complicated but satisfactory plot.
Now I’m not a fan of long books, in fact I think most books could be shorter than how they eventually end up so I must admit I felt the same way about this book; I think it would have been tighter had it not been so long. But I did really enjoy it, the weaving in and out of the present day helped ‘shorten’ the book for me, so I didn’t dread picking up the giant tome. And as I mentioned above we find ourselves all over the world at various points in the story, so we don’t get ‘stuck’ somewhere or with someone for too long. The character of Adam Foole (who is a bit of a foil to William) was by far my favourite, he had amazing depth, and even though he had done terrible things in his life he was sympathetically drawn and perpetually surprising.
So I won’t say this is one of the best books that I read in 2017, but it was certainly up there, and I did genuinely enjoy it. But it’s not for someone looking for a quick fix, it’s an investment in time and wrist strength (and I was reading the paperback!) but you won’t be disappointed if you put in the effort. You might want to do a few forearm curls before you start though.
I got this book a while back, and it is in my TBR– I love the cover and the premise of the story sounds good. Thanks for you great review!
thanks for following along! Just make sure to read it when you’re not in a rush, and you will be rewarded 🙂
I will take your advice. It sounds like one that needs a fair bit of contemplation.
This sounds really interesting, but I get what you mean about the length. While I do love a long book, the length has to be justified. And they do tend to go slower for me because they are so often historical fiction (chock-full of background and historical detail). Currently reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and it is taking forever. I’m enjoying it, but so much of what I’m reading seems superfluous. Still, I’ve added By Gaslight to my TBR. 🙂
Ohhh I’m curious about Hilary Mantel’s books. Now those are some long books!!! But I hear they are worth it, I think you just need to be in the right mindset…
I’ve been tempted by this one but I must admit the length puts me off. I quite like getting lost in a long book, but I need to feel sure about it, so tend to go for long classics rather than current ones. No doubt I miss out sometimes, but hey ho! We can’t read ’em all! Glad you enjoyed it!
Yay – you’ve made me feel so much better about reading this book. I love stories that move around in time and place, and it sounds like he’s written some interesting characters. You’ve convinced me!
Oh I’m excited to read your review already 🙂
Ha! It could still be a couple years…
I’ve got time 🙂
I’m glad you liked it! Steve was one of my favourite profs in university and it’s been awesome to see his book do well. (And I genuinely enjoyed it myself.) I know what you mean about book size though. Sometimes even a book I really enjoy is avoided if it’s too large.
oh that’s very cool! I bet he was an amazing prof. And weird to be studying with someone that currently has a book out 🙂
I’m not sure how how I feel about a 700 page book. I feel like 300-400 pages is “long” (most literary books I read are dense at 250 pages), and 1,000 to 1,200 pages are those Victorian door-stoppers that will cover a lot of people, but what are we doing in 700 pages?
hmm yah, it’s been ages since I’ve read a 1000 page book (with good reason). The last time I read a book that long was probably in university!
Ah, I completely relate to that feeling of “sneaking” a book! What a delight! (And I thought that was a treat!)
We seem to have had a similar reading of this one. Although I can see where another reader might have felt that the extra length was justified, due to its adding to mood/sense/atmosphere, I did not fully sink into it as much as I might have, so I felt the length of it too. However, I chalked it up to reading it in full-CanLit season (the autumn it was released), when one secretly wishes that all the attention-getting books would be under 200 pages long!
ha! I can completely related to THAT feeling too 🙂
Good for you for reading something purely for pleasure!
Sounds interesting! I’m a fan of longer books, and I love historical fiction, so I’ll have to check it out 🙂 Thanks!
thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoy it!
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