OCTAVIUS GUY &
THE CASE OF THE THROTTLED TRAGEDIENNE
March 07, 2023
This was a joy from beginning to end, Michael! I may be slightly biased but I loved it. The character's development from the previous case was lovely to see. The detail, which must be a labour of love for you, superb and immersive. Read with a genuine smile on my face.
[Not rated; same reviewer as the entry below]
December 22, 2021
Just finished @seventh7rainbow’s Octopus: The Case of the Throttled Tragedienne. I loved it. Most people I interact with regularly on Twitter are aware of these terrific books and share my enthusiasm. If you are not yet familiar, do pause a moment for this thread.
Octavius Guy is simply the best detective who’s not on TV yet. If you like a good murder mystery, historical settings (Gallagher writes the best descriptions of Dickensian London since, well, since Dickens), a tight plot, a brilliantly drawn cast of characters & a smattering of humour then this is your next favourite book. Also included: great action sequences, a superbly voiced narrator, & an immersive world built on thorough research.
Did I mention that I loved it?
September 29, 2020
Usually a sequel doesn't quite match up to the first one that it is following. However, this one surpasses it! It gets even better, the plot and story is woven together very nicely and the narrative maintains an exciting pace throughout the book. The protagonist Gooseberry and the other characters in this series have become very endearing to the reader and that is an achievement on the part of the author. The author has written a wonderful tale of Victorian era mystery and murder in the style of the great writers of that period (Wilkie Collins, AC Doyle et al). I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel and looking forward to the next one in the series. Well done, you got me hooked as a reader and fan.
July 07, 2020
Another excellent, fun, mystery with Octavius Guy and Co. This is beautifully written by Michael Gallagher. A perfect 2nd book to enjoy with a cup of tea or something stronger... Ginger beer perhaps?
Please give my regards to Miss Bertha.
A bona book, Michael.
July 22, 2019
This sparkling sequel does not disappoint!
I read this second book in the 'Send For Octavius Guy' series immediately after finishing book one and was hooked from the first chapter. The 'case' for our young investigator is darker and more complex this time, reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, with twists and turns that sometimes rival Agatha Christie. What I enjoyed most though, was Octavius' personal story deftly woven through the narrative along with the author's trademark gentle, witty asides.
Details of home life and living conditions, jobs, food, transport, entertainment, and even the criminal justice system, are included in such an integral part of the storytelling that you really feel you are there in 1850's Victorian London. The characters have been further developed so well that I could easily visualise them on a Sunday night, in a prime-time, family viewing TV slot. I was reluctant to put this book down, and the climax and tying up of loose ends was thoroughly satisfying and superbly done. No withdrawal symptoms for me as book 3 is lined up and ready to read! Can't wait to start 'Big Bona Ogles, Boy!'
August 17, 2018
An entertaining YA mystery set in Victorian London.
I've not read the first book in the series but had no problem getting straight into this one.
The central character Octavius is a likable 14-year-old, ex-pickpocket currently working as an office boy (chief investigator) for a local Solicitor. Attending a play with his employer, he witnesses the murder on stage of an old friend. His investigations reveal all is not as it seems.
Reading as an adult I found this a fun, light read. Well-written and researched.
Recommend to fans of historical mysteries.
July 29, 2016
In short, this book is wonderful! The story of Octavius, or Octopus, his younger brother, his friend Bertha/Bertram, and the mystery of who killed his friend was such a delightful romp through the streets of 1850s London. The characters are fantastic, they feel real, and the whole book just sucks you in from the first word. Everything about this book feels real, actually, and I had to keep reminding myself not to google for photographs of the characters.
This was such a surprising read, not only in the excellency of the story and story-telling, but also in who the actual murderer was. One of my favorite books this year, hands down.
And I've already purchased the rest of the author's catalog, something that rarely happens for me. Thank you so very much to LT, the LTER program, and to the author and publisher for the outstanding gift that was this book!
Laura Brook, LibraryThing Early Reviewer
June 25, 2016
An historical fiction detective story taking place in 1850’s London. The main character is a 14 year old, who has become the kingpin of the criminal underworld, but also works as an investigator for a lawyer. Had me hooked from the start. Great story and easy to read. Thank you Michael Gallagher and LibraryThing. 4 1/2 stars.
John Tatum, LibraryThing Early Reviewer
May 05, 2016
Very amusing book about Octavius Guy, a fourteen year old boy in the Victorian age who is a detective. His newest investigation is about the murder of the leading actress on stage during a performance of “The Duchess of Malfi” at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre. I liked it.
Bigger review (in Dutch) on http://alimolenaar.nl/stukjes/theater-en-romans-octopus/
Ali Molenaar, LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 26, 2016
Here is a sensational historical fiction who-dunnit that gives nothing away until the very end. To me, it reads like an old time radio show. It leaves you breathless. It begins with Octopus, a 14-year old who is London's “swiftest, slipperiest pickpocket” that also goes by his boss, Mr. Bruff’s nickname: Gooseberry. He is Mr. Octavius Guy. His younger brother’s name is Julius. Octopus is also a kingpin of the underground.
Octavius gets to attend the theatre with Mr. Bruff and two of his colleagues. He finally gets to see his old friend, Miss Isabella Prynn, the actress who plays “The Duchess of Malfi” that evening. When three men are supposed to strangle her character in the play, she gets strangled to death for real. That is when Octopus gets promoted to Chief Investigator for “Mr. Matthew Bruff of Gray’s Inn Square, one of London’s foremost solicitors”. It is his duty to find Miss Prynn’s murderer.
This is a truly inviting story of intrigue and mayhem. Octavius and his brother also have to deal with their dear ole da’, who abandoned them when Julius was just a baby. You will have loads of fun reading this, and finding out what truly happened the night of Miss Prynn’s demise.
Thank you to Mr. Michael Gallagher, Seventh Rainbow Publishing and LibraryThing for giving me a copy of this book to read and give my honest review.
Connie A., LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 26, 2016
I loved this story!
Octavius Guy, aka The Octopus, formerly a pickpocket, now a private investigator is visiting the London theatre where The Duchess of Malfi is being staged.
Unfortunately one of the actresses previously known to him, a Miss Prynn, is found strangled and he sets about attempting to solve the murder.
A wonderful Victorian melodrama!
I will look out for more from this series.
I won a digital copy of this book from Librarything via the author in return for an honest unbiased review, which I am very happy to do.
Eileen, LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 18, 2016
I somehow missed the fact that this was the second book in a series, so I found myself a bit confused by some of Octopus’ actions and how he could be the leader of the underworld and yet be so naive. I went with it, though, and found him more endearing with each page. (I also got it at the end when he very cleverly extracted himself from an odious and uncomfortable position.) This was a beautifully written book and played like a movie in my head. I could see, hear, and smell everything in the book. It was very hard to put down.
Beth McManus (alanbethcam), LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 18, 2016
This book got me entranced from the start.
The writer managed to whisk me to a Dickensian era with fabulous descriptions. I want to read more 🙂
Although it is unlikely that a 14 year old would be a chief investigator and would Bertha really be accepted at that time, I will forgive that for such a compelling novel.
Did I solve the puzzle - no, but I enjoyed every minute of Octopus’s investigations.
April 15, 2016
For those who hanker for a whodunit played out in the streets of Victorian England, this is a must read. Follow the footsteps of protagonist Octavius, aka Gooseberry, through the narrow lanes that harbour cut throats, confidence men, thieves and just plain odd characters that sport Dickensian names.
As a narrator, Octavius, entertains the reader with his wry sense of humour and his penchant for understatement. His cross dressing sidekick Bertram, aka Bertha, provides loyalty and humour throughout the tale.
Young adults will find the story full of plot twists and adventure. It will be hard to put the book down.
Ann Towell, LibraryThing Early Reviewer | [unrated]
April 13, 2016
This was a very entertaining read, I enjoyed it greatly. The characters are vivid and the descriptions of Victorian London atmospheric. I particularly enjoyed the cross dressing flower seller, Bertha, who is treated as just another character and not made to be a caricature.
The plot is complex and at times could perhaps be better explained - not spelled out but just could be a bit clearer re: connections - then again I don't read much crime fiction and so not used to following the twists and turns! Love the cover photo and the links at the end to the book that it was taken from. You even get some recipes thrown in for good measure!
Linda Timms, LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 06, 2016
I received a free copy of this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a clever and pleasant Victorian era mystery. Gooseberry and his main circle of family and friends are colorful and likeable. The picture of Victorian life in London is well done and the details of daily life are interesting. Gooseberry’s narration is engaging and often slyly funny.
I did read the first book in the series first, which wasn’t necessary, but I think knowing the characters’ backgrounds made this one more enjoyable.
The only small drawback was that the ending seemed a little bit too convoluted or maybe just oddly paced to me.
John Tatum, LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 01, 2016
This book is a thrilling sequel to the first in the series. Octavius is an intelligent, cunning, and honorable character with enough edge that reader enjoys following him on his investigations. His double life also makes his tale compelling and exciting to follow. He is also surrounded by comical supporting characters that create an eclectic family. At times the story seems a bit choppy especially when Octavius figures something out. The reader is not aware of the connection until Octavius follows it through. The boys’ father showing up seemed out of the blue, but the author takes care of that loose strand in the epilogue which helps. It also feels like the first part of the epilogue should have been a last chapter instead. Leaving the final epilogue piece to relay what life is like after the story. Overall, a great piece of mystery historical fiction that many readers will enjoy!!
Sarah Leonard Miller, LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 29, 2016
I too was lucky enough to read this through Library Thing. This book should be on your reading list if you wish Wilkie Collins were here today offering us immersion in his London with compelling mystery, unexpected wonderful characters, and a story length that suits our modern pace. If you’re saying Wilkie who? No worries. Start here and follow this author. Historical fact is deftly combined with fiction that makes Octavius’s world a new form of old London that I am eager to visit again. Pour some tea or a wee dram, put your feet up, and enjoy cover to cover.
Gladread, LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 29, 2016
An amusing and fun read. Octavius Guy, aka Octopus, is a clever young fellow trying to better himself through a legitimate career as an investigator but runs into sometimes funny, sometimes dangerous incidents in his side career as chief of his underground turf in Victorian London. Octopus relies on his wits and his friends to help him solve the murder of a good friend and actress, as well as resolving personal issues, including an erstwhile father who shows up out of nowhere. A kingpin orphan just can’t get a break some days. The lead character is cheering and endearing, and the plot ties up nicely.
Reading Fury, LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 29, 2016
This was a fun, Dickensian mystery with fakeouts and plot twists and clever dialogue. I especially appreciated the inclusion of Bertha and the narrator’s complete acceptance of his/her gender identity. You don't often find books set in contemporary times where that is the case so it was especially refreshing to see such acceptance and support in Victorian London.
Heather Tannenbaum, LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 27, 2016
Octavius “Gooseberry” “Octopus” Guy is not only a regular 14 year old boy in Victorian England. He is also chief investigator for a well-known solicitor and kingpin of the London Underground. When a friend from his younger days dies on stage, he cannot let the matter rest and starts his own investigation. But just then an old man, claiming to be his father turns up, making his personal life all the more complicated.
Michael Gallagher creates a very vivid, accurate and believable image of Victorian London and especially of the quarters where the poorer residents try to forge out a living.
Gooseberry’s adventures are very entertaining and the plot is fascinating with subterfuge, confidence tricks and plenty of drama.
I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review and I’m very happy to say that I enjoyed the experience a lot! I can highly recommend this book to anyone fascinated by Victorian mysteries.
David Eggerschwiler (pratchettfan), LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 23, 2016
Just when I thought I was getting a handle on the layers of this story, it would take off in another direction, adding yet another layer to the intrigue.
He’s a clever young man who wants to leave behind his “sordid” past and make a place for himself in proper society. His past, however, has an inconvenient way of regularly showing up and pushing in to his life.
He handles it all well and with great cleverness.
The cast of characters is a wondrous mix of unlikely folks.
Even a dog!
Libby Dodd, Goodreads Reviewer
March 21, 2016
Octopus was an enjoyable read. Although it is the second book in the series (I haven’t read the first, but I’d like to), it easily stood alone.
The character development was rich. I LOVED Bertha/Bertram. I wanted to be her friend. I also enjoyed the characters of Julius and Octavius/Octopus/Gooseberry. I know children matured faster back then, especially orphaned/homeless children, but I did feel like Octavius was a bit mature for his age. For me, it would have been much more believable had he been even two years older (16).
I read a lot of mysteries and historical fiction and Octopus didn’t disappoint. Gallagher sets a rich scene in Victorian England. The mystery wasn’t totally predictable, nor was it overly complicated. The only quibble I had was that it was a little difficult to keep track of who was whom with the players in the mystery toward the end of the book when the mystery was being solved.
Again, this book was very enjoyable. I found myself reading long into the night not wanting to put it down. I want to read the first book in the series and I certainly hope there’s a third! If you like your mysteries on the cozy side and your characters loveable, read this book! You won’t be disappointed.
I received a free copy of the ebook for my honest review and all words and opinions are my own.
Devon Lewis, LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 20, 2016
I was lucky to receive this book as part of the Library Thing Early Reviewers, and I am happy to say it was totally worth the read, I liked it very much.
I love Victorian mysteries in general and Sherlock Holmes in particular. The action of this book takes place a few decades before Holmes, but it’s all there nonetheless. Gooseberry could perfectly be the leader of the “irregulars” of Baker Street, the ragamuffins that helped Sherlock.
It’s the second book in the Octavius/Gooseberry series. I haven’t read the first, though I would like to, but could understand and follow this second one without difficulty.
I liked the fact that Octopus/Octavius/Gooseberry is a criminal overlord, retired pickpocket, etc., but, at the same time is only 14, wants to leave “the life”, he loves his little brother Julius and wants the best for him, and his friend “Bertha” (great character by the way, though the slang “palari” he/she speaks is not always easy to follow, but the author provides a little vocabulary of it at the beginning), and cares for his boss and protector enough (well intentioned but less savvy) to wean him off cocaine in a very ingenious way.
The ambience of Saint Paul’s flower stalls (My Fair Lady), the world of Victorian theater, is all very well captured. All the book is full of very nice, and realistic sounding touches (the dog, their would-be father, their origin...).
The author has another Victorian character, a young girl medium (my e-book has the first chapter of her first novel) which should be a very nice read too.
Mrs. Hudson, LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 17, 2016
Octavius Guy has a great deal to manage, but this intrepid fourteen year old is up to the challenge! To ferret out the true criminal behind the death of an actress, Octavius uses all his wits to navigate the false clues and deceptions that present themselves.
Whenever I come into the middle of a series without reading the first book, I’m always a little fearful of being left confused. Not so with this book! The reader is given enough information to give them a good foundation for these characters without being bogged down by repetition. In fact, just enough detail is given that I WANT to go find the first book posthaste.
Octavius Guy, or Gooseberry as he is occasionally called, is an engaging and amusing character. The surrounding cast is equally entertaining. The mystery kept me on my toes and guessing, which I love.
A fantastic book for detective fans and lovers of the Victorian Era.
I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
March 09, 2016
London, Thursday July 1, 1852, 9:30 pm. The story begins with the play, The Duchess of Malfi. Miss Prynn, leading actress dies mysteriously during the performance. This is the case for the investigator and his partner. Gooseberry (aka Octopus) is a 14 year old detective to the lower class. His partner, the man he works for Mr. Tuttle. Gooseberry noticed 4 executioners in the play, but only 3 present to be questioned by police. This suggests foul play! Someone disguised himself in order to strangle Miss Prynn! The police dismiss Gooseberry as a menace. So he goes searching for clues. Prior to the murder, we are introduced to the tricksters, pickpockets and people who once were someone else. I was getting excited reading a good old fashioned detective mystery. The descriptive time generation setting is like living in that era through the characters in the book! Gooseberry and Mr. Tuttle soon discover a whole array of clues. Miss Prynn was involved in a huge scam, and also had a will which indicated she was married. Up until now the book has your belief on other characters being guilty. A jump forward to locate Miss Prynn’s sister and her house lead the storyline to an unexpected direction. A grand scheme, and series of planned events by the murderer. Had the villain been so clever perhaps the ending would have him getting away with the perfect crime. Alas, the ill fated ending. Leaving us with three suspects. Even worse, the man appearing upon Gooseberry’s doorstep claiming to be his father. He must prove this to not be true!
The rest is for you to read and figure out along the way. Part of the fun, I say. A great story, loads of characters with charisma and depth. Setting is magnificently throughout and described. I felt included in the scenarios. The plot twists were my favorite. I give this book four stars out of 5. Great job! I received this book in exchange for an unbiased and honest review. Kris.
Kris Metoyer (silencenomore), LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 06, 2016
The second book of this series I liked very much. I like the main character Octopus/Gooseberry and his friends/family. This time he must solve the puzzle of the murder of an actress and her husband. Although all the major characters are present from the outset, it needs its time until you feel who the real killer is. In another the supposedly biological father makes contact with him and his brother. This is another mystery which Octopus has to solve, because he does not trust this running up. In addition, he has the image of a crime boss finally get rid of, because he otherwise is no more trusted as chief investigator. But he finds an optimal solution for all related to him.
I hope that this series is continued.
Barbara Heckendorn, Smashwords Reviewer
March 04, 2016
I received this book in return for my honest review, and I have to say that I absolutely loved it!
I really enjoyed the first book Gooseberry, that introduced us to young Octavius Guy, former pickpocket on the streets of 19th century London, now Chief-Investigator for a reputable solicitor, but this sequel was even better!!
Octavius, also known as Gooseberry for his bulging eyes, or Octopus (by the criminal set) due to his skills as a pickpocket, finds himself thrust into the investigation of an unusual murder that happens in front of an audience of rapt theatre-goers. When Octavius attends a play with his employer and some of his clients, he realizes that the lead actress is someone he knows, a confidence trickster from years ago. She had helped Gooseberry with his baby brother, after his mother's death, and he was thrilled to see that she had found a way, like him, out of "the Life" and had a new name and a successful career. He saw the fear in her eyes when they were introduced prior to the play, but she had nothing to fear from Gooseberry, who was happy for her, and would never reveal her criminal past, playing along as if they were meeting for the first time. During the play, however, there is a scene in which the actress, Miss Prynn, is strangled by Monks wearing costumes that hide their faces. She is supposed to rise from the dead to speak a few more lines, but instead the actress lies still. A co-actor screams for a doctor, and one rushes up to the stage and after examining her announces that she is, in fact, dead! This set into motion a thrilling investigation with all kinds of twists and turns, as Gooseberry is determined to get to the bottom of what happened and who is responsible!
In addition to his investigating, Gooseberry also has the burden of now being head of the criminal underworld by the odd rules employed in that world and uses this to his advantage as much as possible in his investigating. The additional burden of such demands, however, prove difficult to manage and he realizes that he has to find some solutions for this double life he's living, which he manages to do in spectacular fashion to the benefit of many. While at first glance, a 14 year old sleuth and leader of street crime in London's underworld might seem far-fetched by today's perspective, the children growing up on the streets of Victorian London had to grow up quickly and learn to be tough just to survive. They were hardened by life at such a young age that they really weren't children, especially by the time they were Gooseberry's age. The instinct to read people and find ways to get what they needed were often required to survive on the streets, where the weak were easily picked off and taken advantage of. Gooseberry is young, but he is very smart, intuitive and tough when he needs to be, as the choices he makes at the end of the book with regards to justice and the death sentence clearly show.
Octavius is such an interesting character, and the book is set in such a fascinating time in London's history. I enjoyed learning more about the less respectable London and the people who lived there, and the slang was fun! I loved that some of it was simply the word spelled and pronounced backwards! Gooseberry has a foot in both worlds, which gives the reader an very interesting perspective on how the social classes worked at the time and how viewed one another. For those scraping by on the streets, like Gooseberry had, it was such a dangerous and difficult time of living hungry and being desperate. This was especially true for women and young children, who often had to make money in any way they could just to eat. Gooseberry doesn't judge them harshly for this because he recognizes that there is little choice when you are poor and hungry with no other resources. I liked that the book showed that in spite of their poor circumstances, these people found small pleasures in their lives and cared for one another when they could. The upper classes simply did not want to see or associate with those of such criminal background, if they thought of them at all beyond turning their nose up at them. Gooseberry was fortunate that his employer was able to see that he had something to offer despite a criminal past, which was why it was so crucial to Gooseberry that his kept his current activities with the underworld hidden.
I think bringing Octavius and Julius's father into the story helped to illustrate, even more, what it must have been like for many children of the time who were born to single mothers, many of whom had to sell themselves to feed their children. His appearance in their small flat shows the reader how incredibly poor they were, even with all three of them - Gooseberry, Julius and Bertha - working from morning till night. They had no beds to sleep on, and simply had to find room on the floor to lay out a bedroll. When Gooseberry's brother wants to bring a stray dog inside to keep as a pet, it's a difficult decision because there is so little room and so little food to go around, but Gooseberry realizes that Julius needs a friend and allows it. His father's appearance also prompts him to find out more about his own background and he comes to see that family doesn't have to be about blood, but rather can be a family you create for yourself of those you care about and who care. A lot of difficult and emotional topics are explored alongside the murder mystery, and I found myself reflecting on how lucky we are to have the social services we have today, and how hopeless life must have felt for so many during Gooseberry's time. I think the book gives us a deeper understanding of many of the characters and their motivations. Some, like Octavius, strive to rise above the criminal life, and if presented, take the opportunity to try to make something of themselves in the respectable world. But their past activities and associations are always there in the background, waiting to drag them back down.
A good mystery that kept me guessing. I wasn't sure who and why until the very end! A good read and highly recommended!
March 01, 2016
While you do not need to read Gooseberry before you read Octopus, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of each. Clearly readers of Dickens and similar Victorian era themed mysteries must enjoy the talented prose of author Michael Gallagher. It is exceptionally well researched. The dialogue flows colorfully with amusing turns of phrase. Octopus is a scholarly murder mystery without being staid.
I believe those who enjoy television investigative series as varied as Leverage, Castle and Elementary will be delighted with this series and want to devour more. Those who appreciate an engrossing night of theatre, finding themselves lost in suspended disbelief, will find both Gooseberry and Octopus to be exciting pageturners.
This is not a simple mystery. It is a masterpiece of misdirection and layers of creative storytelling. There is depth to the characters and plot. DON’T HESITATE! Trust me. Buy the books!
Dogsmom (Laura In Wisconsin), Amazon.com Reviewer
March 01, 2016
Last year I read and LOVED 'Gooseberry: The Case of The Thieving Maharajah'. Since then, I have been waiting as patiently as possible for author Michael Gallagher to release the next in the series.
What's it about?
14 year old Octavius Guy is known to his colleagues as 'Gooseberry' (on account of his bulging 'ogles') and by London's criminal fraternity as Octopus (on account of his notorious pickpocketing skills). He's enjoying his role as solicitor Matthew Bruff's newly-appointed Chief Investigator when he's sufficiently lucky to witness a performance of 'The Duchess of Malfi' at Sadler's Wells. Or at least, he's lucky enough to witness two thirds of the perfomance. Then the leading lady dies. Yes, yes, the Duchess is meant to die...but the actress who's playing her isn't.
Gooseberry is especially horrified because he knows Miss Prynn personally. Or at least, he used to, back when she was called Bella and led a life of crime. And of course, he really ought to know all about what she's doing now, as he's currently leader of London's criminal gangs, albeit a reluctant one. Immediately resolving to investigate, Gooseberry dashes into the backstage area, seeking clues and ruffling feathers in his attempts to uncover the truth. After all, even if he wasn't personally motivated, this sure beats tracking down rich old lady's cats.
And if solving a crime without seeking support from England's fledgling police force, or confessing to your employer that London's criminal underclasses are supposed to answer directly to you, doesn't sound tricky enough, a man arrives unannounced in the house Gooseberry shares with his younger brother, Julius, and friend, Bertha, claiming to be Gooseberry's father. But is he? And how can Gooseberry find out?
What's it like?
Immediately engaging. Oddly sweet. Occasionally ludicrous.
Gooseberry's voice is one of the novel's greatest strengths; his candour and enthusiasm are delightful. On the subject of legal matters he notes that it is, 'Best not to ask, I always think…they might try to tell you!'
He continues to try to protect his employer from the realities of life in Victorian England for children, playing along with Mr Bruff's bizarre notion that the cross-dressing (but obviously male) Bertha is Gooseberry and Julius' mother and generally shielding him from things it's best he remains ignorant of, such as the exact nature of the play Gooseberry is so keen to see. He focused on the fame of the leading actress while, 'purposely skirting around the play’s rather bloodthirsty nature; it was bound to offend Mr Bruff’s quaint notions of what were and what were not suitable topics for discussion where a fourteen-year-old boy was concerned.'
It is similarly amusing that he feels Webster's play to be short on death and bloodthirstiness. Indeed, he begins to 'despair' at the lack of blood and gore, reflecting that although the Duchess got upset over the purported bodies of her children and husband, Gooseberry feels that, 'as waxworks, they can hardly be included in the final body count, now can they?' This is, to say the least, not a criticism typically levelled at John Webster. At least Gooseberry would approve of this book: Miss Prynn is murdered in the prologue, giving a nicely bloodthirsty opening. Though in hindsight, I can anticipate his complaint…
What's to like?
Gooseberry's enthusiasm, vibrant narration and diligent attempts to solve the case. The irony inherent in Gooseberry's involvement. The echoes from 'The Duchess of Malfi'. (Although I did reread Webster's work as preparation for this and felt on reflection that it was unnecessary; reading a summary would have sufficed.)
I love Gooseberry's enjoyment of language and his (occasionally erroneous) definitions that pop up occasionally:
'I should perhaps explain that “cursory” has nothing to do with cursing, no matter how similar the words may look. It’s more about having insufficient time to do a job thoroughly or, as was the case here, insufficient jurisdiction and experience.'
There's a wonderful mixture of pomposity and innocence, knowledge and ignorance, that makes his narration a pleasure to read.
What's not to like?
Hmm. The idea that Gooseberry has unwillingly become the head of London's criminal underworld defies belief. Of course, it's arguable that a 14 year old sleuth / Chief Investigator isn't exactly realistic anyway, (certainly Mr Bruff keeps nearly referring to his erstwhile investigator as a mere 'office boy',) but I can only suspend my disbelief so far and found - although it certainly allowed for some wonderful comic moments - that this new role was a touch too silly for my liking.
When I first finished this I wasn't sure I had enjoyed it as much as its predecessor. There seemed to be more minor niggles (did I really care whether or not this lazy Scotsman was Gooseberry's dad? Why is a dog involved?) and the pace felt slightly 'off' (there are three chapters of epilogue).
However, now that I've had a few days to reflect on the final text as a whole, I feel much more positive again. I always appreciate a story where the threads all come together, and when Gooseberry finally gets it right, everything works out just perfectly. The ending is quite lovely and I'm once more genuinely excited for Gooseberry's next outing - perhaps with the older George as a kind of Dr Watson figure?
Recommended for fans of Victorian fiction, crime fiction and revenge tragedy. But. Read 'Gooseberry' first. Thanks to the author for providing me with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
February 26, 2016
I received an advance review copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This is another interesting and very entertaining story about the further adventures of 14-year-old Octavius Guy, also known as Gooseberry, as he investigates the death of a leading actress who dies on stage under mysterious circumstances. She is also a former cohort in his previous life. Gooseberry has now been promoted to the solicitor’s Chief Investigator but, though a reformed pickpocket, is still the criminal overlord managing London’s criminal underclass. Bertha who has a flower stand in the market is a very interesting character that adds a great deal of color to the story. The setting is London during the Victorian era. I really enjoy the way the author writes and the subtle humor he uses throughout the book. Again the author includes a very helpful glossary of Palari terms at the beginning of the book. The story held my attention right up until the end. Although this book stands alone and is a complete story in itself it might be beneficial to read “Gooseberry,” the first book in the Send for Octavius Guy chronicles for background info on Gooseberry. I recommend this very entertaining book.
I ADAM, Goodreads Reviewer