Devoured (Hatton and Roumonde Mystery)
by D.E. Meredith
Cover Artist: Photo: Roberto Pastrovicchio / Arcangel Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312557683
Date: 26 October 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In 1856 London, forensic science and the theory of evolution are angering Christian politicians and clergymen. Benjamin Broderig, aristocratic collector of biological specimens, has returned from exploring Borneo. The letters he wrote to Lady Katherine Bessingham, detailing his adventures, have disappeared. Proving quite controversial in their anti-Christian stance, these letters have drawn the attention of several Londoners, including a vicious killer. The bodies of beaten prostitutes are being dragged from the Thames while wealthy Bohemians are being heinously butchered. Forensics scientist Professor Adolphus Hatton and his assistant Albert Roumande team up with celebrity Inspector George Adams to solve these bizarre murders.
D.E. Meredith's Devoured is a complex, highly engrossing Victorian mystery with a truly insane Jack the Ripper-type killer. Flashbacks are strategically provided by short letters written by Broderig when he was in Borneo; these letters detail the killing of orangutans while questioning the creation of man based on the complexity and diversity of animal and plant species. The letters also contain hidden secrets that could hurt many people, especially the killer. Crimes are graphically detailed with plenty of gore. One victim is found completely gutted and stuffed like a biological specimen or a hunting trophy. Through Meredith's expert writing skills, I felt that I'd been transported back in time to Victorian England. Furthermore, Hatton and Roumande are protagonists I can admire for their surgical and detective skills and, most importantly, their caring hearts.
Professor Adolphus Hatton has devoted his life to the new field of forensics. He performs autopsies, which are looked upon by some Christians as sacrilegious butchery. Through the writing of letters, he must beg for money to purchase instruments for their lab at St Bart's. Hatton, who accompanies the gruff Inspector Adams on most of his inquiries, is single and lives alone. His assistant, Albert Roumande, however, has a large family. Because he is French, he is sometimes despised by the English. I looked upon this delightful pairing of good friends Hatton and Roumande as another version of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. I know I'll be devouring future novels that have these two Victorian sleuths.
Devoured provided a view of Victorian life that I found rather shocking, especially in regards to the treatment of the different classes. Unidentified prostitutes are being found dead and labeled as "pork". The police of Scotland yard (referred to as Specials) spend more resources in apprehending the killer of the wealthy Botanicals (those who study botany). Indeed, it seems that Roumande, Hatton, and Broderig are the only ones who are insistent on finding whoever is responsible for slaying the prostitutes. Roumande wishes to personally pay for the funeral of one young girl who has the appearance of an angel.
Fans of historical mysteries, especially those set in Victorian Europe, will definitely want to read D.E. Meredith's (Denise Meredith) Devoured. A high body count, creative death scenes, cruel villains, beloved heroes, intriguing plots and subplots, and an exotic setting make this novel an enjoyable read. (Other highly recommended mysteries which depict the cruelties of Victorian Europe are Alastair Sim's The Unbelievers and Julian Cole's The Amateur Historian.)
According to her web site, Meredith is currently working on a sequel to Devoured. A graduate of Cambridge University, she has worked as a media relations and campaign consultant for the British Red Cross and Greenpeace. Her love of The Malay Archipelago (a travelogue written by real-life specimen collector Alfred Russell Wallace) inspired her to write Devoured.