Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Chinese Puzzle (Charles Dickens Investigations #8)

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The Chinese Puzzle is the 8th Charles Dickens investigation by J.C. Briggs. Released 28th Feb 2021 by Sapere Books, it's 336 pages (print edition) and is available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book (and the rest of the series) is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free.

This is a very well written and plotted historical mystery series with three dimensional characters and a Dickensian vibe. I've really enjoyed these historical mysteries set in the middle of the 19th century in London and environs. Charles Dickens is clever, loyal, dogged, and practical and his friendship and cooperative investigation with superintendent Sam Jones makes for engaging and entertaining reading. The plots are always convoluted and well engineered, full of twists and surprises. The story itself is written around a framework of real historical events and people and so well entwined that it's not always apparent where reality shades over into fiction. Each of the mysteries works well as a standalone and this one is no exception.

Whilst an entertaining read, I did find myself struggling sometimes with the plethora of secondary characters and keeping all the lawyers, clergy, hostlers, drudges, shopkeepers, and servants straight was taxing. I found myself having to check back in the story to remember which family was which. It's a relatively minor problem though, and considering the high quality of the writing, worth the occasional confusion. Having read the book as an ebook, it was not a problem to check who was who with the search function.

The dramatic arc, climax, and denouement are well written and immersive.

Overall, it's a good read and a quality example of the historical-person-as-amateur-sleuth sub-genre. Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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