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The Music of the Spheres

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In eighteenth-century London, a killer walks the teeming streets. His victims are always young prostitutes with red hair. Before they die, they hear whispers that speak of stars. Of a woman named Selene. Then they feel the cord around their necks... While the Revolution rages across the Channel, Jonathan Absey, working for England's Home Office, tracks down foreign spies In eighteenth-century London, a killer walks the teeming streets. His victims are always young prostitutes with red hair. Before they die, they hear whispers that speak of stars. Of a woman named Selene. Then they feel the cord around their necks... While the Revolution rages across the Channel, Jonathan Absey, working for England's Home Office, tracks down foreign spies in the war against France. But he is obsessed with the recent killings of prostitutes, all of whom resemble his lost daughter, who met her end in the shadowy alleys of London. The redemption he craves won't be found in the politics of war. The answers he seeks won't be on the city streets. Danger and intrigue will compel him to look elsewhere, for it is where he least expects it that a secret is hiding...


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In eighteenth-century London, a killer walks the teeming streets. His victims are always young prostitutes with red hair. Before they die, they hear whispers that speak of stars. Of a woman named Selene. Then they feel the cord around their necks... While the Revolution rages across the Channel, Jonathan Absey, working for England's Home Office, tracks down foreign spies In eighteenth-century London, a killer walks the teeming streets. His victims are always young prostitutes with red hair. Before they die, they hear whispers that speak of stars. Of a woman named Selene. Then they feel the cord around their necks... While the Revolution rages across the Channel, Jonathan Absey, working for England's Home Office, tracks down foreign spies in the war against France. But he is obsessed with the recent killings of prostitutes, all of whom resemble his lost daughter, who met her end in the shadowy alleys of London. The redemption he craves won't be found in the politics of war. The answers he seeks won't be on the city streets. Danger and intrigue will compel him to look elsewhere, for it is where he least expects it that a secret is hiding...

30 review for The Music of the Spheres

  1. 5 out of 5

    C.W.

    Elizabeth Redfern has crafted a thinking person's historical thriller in this vivid account of a man's search for his daughter's killer and the quest for a lost planet among refugees from the French Revolution. The sights, sounds and smells of 18th century London permeate the tale of Jonathan Absey, a calcifying civil servant whose family and personal life have crumbled following the death of his daughter, who was strangled by a serial killer preying on red-haired prostitutes. While the premise Elizabeth Redfern has crafted a thinking person's historical thriller in this vivid account of a man's search for his daughter's killer and the quest for a lost planet among refugees from the French Revolution. The sights, sounds and smells of 18th century London permeate the tale of Jonathan Absey, a calcifying civil servant whose family and personal life have crumbled following the death of his daughter, who was strangled by a serial killer preying on red-haired prostitutes. While the premise sounds reminiscent of countless other thrillers, echoing the later horrors and panic of the infamous Ripper spree, this is where the similarities end. Rather than settle for the usual stop-the-murderer-before-he-kills-again scenario, Ms Redfern instead has crafted a fascinating rumination on the forces that our beliefs exert on us, and the effects of one seemingly random event on an entire life. She adds to her lead character a fascinating cast of supporting roles, including Jonathan’s sensitive homosexual brother, Alexander, an amateur astronomy aficionado who falls in thrall to a tormented French refugee brother and sister. In a time when being gay was both persecuted and dangerous, Redfern’s choice to tell part of her story through Alexander’s eyes is a bold one, elevating the narrative into one of eloquent complexity. As Alexander becomes increasingly involved with the mysterious and glamorous Auguste and her terminally ill brother— who may, in fact, be the very killer Jonathan Absey seeks— the world around them is being shaken by the ongoing war in France and ruthless suspicions of the English government, which is avidly hunting down French spies. The descriptions of France’s struggles and the suffering of those forced to leave are poignant; rarely do we read about those who fled abroad only to encounter another country’s hostility. While the occasional digressions into battles abroad dilute the immediate plot, this is still a book rich in atmosphere and suspense— a heady excursion to an era when astronomy was a burgeoning science; war was as haunting a presence as the murderer in London’s midst; and one man’s dogged search to bring a killer to justice unravels a myriad of deadly secrets.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Okie

    The graphically depicted scenes of sexual depravity sort of ruined this book for me. Like most of us, I have a particularly graphic imagination, and had these images burned into my mind for months. This is the only book I have thrown away because of it's contents. Sorry I can't tell you more, I've tried to forget this book. This book is NOT for those with graphic imaginations or sensitive sensibilities!!!!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cerisaye

    Much as I wanted to love this novel it just lacked something to rate more than three stars, despite the allure of its well depicted period setting, a range of characters that felt more authentic than is often the case in historical fiction, reasonably gripping serial killer plotline mixed with spies, astronomy and political intrigue in late 18th C London, portrayed with messy, smelly realism, a dark and dangerous place. A good edit would have improved the novel by tightening up the narrative- le Much as I wanted to love this novel it just lacked something to rate more than three stars, despite the allure of its well depicted period setting, a range of characters that felt more authentic than is often the case in historical fiction, reasonably gripping serial killer plotline mixed with spies, astronomy and political intrigue in late 18th C London, portrayed with messy, smelly realism, a dark and dangerous place. A good edit would have improved the novel by tightening up the narrative- less digression, not quite so much detail, though I appreciate a lot of research clearly went into the writing, but in places there was simply too much information, to the detriment of narrative pace and holding the reader's attention. I enjoyed the main character Jonathan Absey, a spy master who comes unstuck following the brutal murder of his young daughter by a Jack the Ripper style killer, and his older half-brother Alexander, a gay man in a harsh world where homosexuals risk public execution by hanging. The "voices" of these men are very well done indeed, though sometimes uncomfortable reading: the novel certainly goes for a warts & all approach that I found very refreshing, though other reviewers here have been put off by its spare-no-details take on sexuality and violence. I applaud any writer who goes against current orthodoxy that historical characters must think and act as though they have somehow anticipated 21st C attitudes so as not to 'offend' modern readers with outdated prejudices. However, I guessed the identity of the killer early on, worked out who the mysterious Selene was, and then it all got a bit melodramatic towards the end. It was predictable, though I did enjoy parts of the novel very much. The exiled French aristocrat characters engaged in astronomy and espionage did not rise much above stereotype, and their part of the story failed to convince me. Poor Jonathan Absey suffers a deal of misfortune as the story unfolds, his brother, too...and assorted red-headed young women who exist only to be victims, as required. Though the ending is predictable, or perhaps inevitable is a more accurate description, it also leaves unanswered questions, and I wondered if Redfern had hoped to write a sequel? So, not a bad historical crime novel if you have a stomach for graphic detail and sexual violence (there are abusive relationships that could upset some readers). There is much to like in the shape of well realised time & place, flawed characters, and a dark, gritty story of love, obsession, intrigue, spies, secret messages and political skulduggery.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tasha Raymond

    This novel was one of the best murder mysteries that I've read in a very long time. For once I didn't have the killer figured out until three quarters of the way through. I had believed that it was the wrong person for so long that I began doubting many of the clues in the same fashion that the Master Absey was. Placed in the 1790s, The Music of the Spheres is a suspenseful murder mystery novel that follows Master Jonathon Absey on this quest to find his daughter's killer, who he thinks is still This novel was one of the best murder mysteries that I've read in a very long time. For once I didn't have the killer figured out until three quarters of the way through. I had believed that it was the wrong person for so long that I began doubting many of the clues in the same fashion that the Master Absey was. Placed in the 1790s, The Music of the Spheres is a suspenseful murder mystery novel that follows Master Jonathon Absey on this quest to find his daughter's killer, who he thinks is still on the lose. There have been numerous other girls throughout the city that have been killed with the same physical description as her: young, pale, and with red hair. His obsession with finding her causes him to be a disgrace at his job, eventually getting himself fired, creates disorder amongst what few friends that remain loyal to him, and puts his estranged wife and mentally ill child in danger. Perhaps worse of all, it leads to him brother Alexander Wilmot to be tangled up with the wrong people. Alexander, in owing Jonathon repayment for helping him to cover up a sordid affair, befriends a group of astronomers trying to find the mythical and mystical "Selene," a planet that is being hunted down by astronomers in the Company of Titus. Little does he know the danger that this group will put him in as key members of them are part of the French underground that has developed and is in hiding in England. . The little clique themselves don't even realized that their efforts to help support the their motherland of France via the Company is being undermined by a double agent. War, sex, politics, drugs, murder, and astronomy combined. What an awesome ride.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vivienne

    I loved this book and found it a powerful evocation of late 18th century Britain with a compelling mystery involving a French spies and a series of murders of young red-haired women. This was quite a complex and literary book and demanded a lot of attention, yet it was written in a style that I enjoyed and found myself caught up in the story. It may have helped that I've been quite interested in the history of science and astronomy and have studied the cultural history of the period and so could r I loved this book and found it a powerful evocation of late 18th century Britain with a compelling mystery involving a French spies and a series of murders of young red-haired women. This was quite a complex and literary book and demanded a lot of attention, yet it was written in a style that I enjoyed and found myself caught up in the story. It may have helped that I've been quite interested in the history of science and astronomy and have studied the cultural history of the period and so could relate well to the sense of excitement experienced by the star gazers as well as appreciate the wealth of detail in its historical setting. From the reviews and ratings here it seems to be one that divides readers but I find myself firmly in the 'loved it' camp.

  6. 5 out of 5

    LOUISE FIELDER

    This story takes place in London in 1795, just after the French Revolution. To avoid persecution many French Royalists fled to England for safety. During this time many Red-haired prostitutes are murdered and one gentleman of The English Home Office becomes especially involved. The back streets of London, the teeming life there, the poverty with the desire to survive are all richly described. The intrigue, mystery and plot is unimaginable as corruption seems to stem not only from the French escapees This story takes place in London in 1795, just after the French Revolution. To avoid persecution many French Royalists fled to England for safety. During this time many Red-haired prostitutes are murdered and one gentleman of The English Home Office becomes especially involved. The back streets of London, the teeming life there, the poverty with the desire to survive are all richly described. The intrigue, mystery and plot is unimaginable as corruption seems to stem not only from the French escapees but also from the Britsh who harbour them. All under the disguise of the stars. A prelude to Jack-the-Ripper and the Scarlet Pimpernel all wrapped up in one. Hard to put down,

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jean Marie

    I think my prevarication towards actually reading this is seen in how I enjoyed and struggled with this novel. There are pockets throughout the book that are truly engaging and fascinating but there are also parts where the story stalls out. This book was a fun read, but wasn't the brilliant work I was hoping for. There are a ton of flaws throughout. I felt that the author tried to tie together far too many things into less than 500 pages, which is ridiculously difficult. There are too many char I think my prevarication towards actually reading this is seen in how I enjoyed and struggled with this novel. There are pockets throughout the book that are truly engaging and fascinating but there are also parts where the story stalls out. This book was a fun read, but wasn't the brilliant work I was hoping for. There are a ton of flaws throughout. I felt that the author tried to tie together far too many things into less than 500 pages, which is ridiculously difficult. There are too many characters, many of them just mere side characters that lack both full development or are discarded and forgotten before the end of the novel. Additionally, the ending is very abrupt. I usually believe that if the ending is too fast, it's because I want to the book to go on but in this case it's just over but happily so. I really wanted to like this one but there are just too many problems that limit it's score. Spoilers: We never find out what happens to Jonathan and Alexander after the house burns down and the enemies are all dead. Does Jonathan get reinstated in his government work because now he knows what happened and needs to be kept quiet? Does the government find out about Crawford? Who exactly sent the hit team to him? What about Lucket? There are so many loose ends in this novel, so many questions left unanswered that it simply underscores the weaknesses that are present throughout the novel at the expense of it's positives.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Macdonald

    Well written and engaging story. Set in 1795 Britain is at war with revolutionary France and London is full of French emigrants. The story is full of spies and counter spies, murder, treachery,secret codes and the search for a missing star Selene. Amongst this Jonathan Absey blunders his way round in search of his daugher's killer while a shadowy figure continues to strangle red haired young girls in the city. Redfern's description of a dirty and seedy London is as good as Dickens and I found it Well written and engaging story. Set in 1795 Britain is at war with revolutionary France and London is full of French emigrants. The story is full of spies and counter spies, murder, treachery,secret codes and the search for a missing star Selene. Amongst this Jonathan Absey blunders his way round in search of his daugher's killer while a shadowy figure continues to strangle red haired young girls in the city. Redfern's description of a dirty and seedy London is as good as Dickens and I found it a thoroughly engrossing read even though you just know it'll end in tears.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kelley

    I was in the mood for a historical novel, and this was a pretty decent mystery to boot. I enjoyed it. My only complaint was that the astronomical bits could get a little tedious at times. Also, it made me feel like I should brush up on my French revolutionary history- I kept getting Republicans and Royalists confused. A good quick read- I'd recommend it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Roberto

    I have to thank my lucky stars for coming across with this most entertaining novel. As The Guardian claimed, it was unputdownable. Redfern did a great job evoking masterfully the late 18th century. I felt I really was back in the times of harpsichords and laudanum phials. A five stars novel (no pun intended.)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    A book I picked up despite knowing nothing about the writer - this was an enjoyable and fairly complex historical novel.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Wilson

    This is an interesting book. I almost gave it up around a quarter through; the plot was advancing in such inch by inch increments that I thought it would never actually get anywhere. But the story opens in 1795 when such was the norm - everything was slow - travel, communication, the flow of information. I persisted because I found the two main characters so realistic: unheroic, damaged by loss and hopelessness, struggling with hard, precarious lives on the edge of real poverty in a time when po This is an interesting book. I almost gave it up around a quarter through; the plot was advancing in such inch by inch increments that I thought it would never actually get anywhere. But the story opens in 1795 when such was the norm - everything was slow - travel, communication, the flow of information. I persisted because I found the two main characters so realistic: unheroic, damaged by loss and hopelessness, struggling with hard, precarious lives on the edge of real poverty in a time when poverty was a death sentence, and deeply flawed. Even the most appealing, gentle and empathetic character - the protagonist's gay brother - is willfully blind to his own exploitation and abuse of a vulnerable other. The plot elements having to do with the French revolution and Britain's role in supporting the Royalists attempting to return to power is labyrinthine. I got lost a few times, forgetting who was who and on which side they seemed to be operating, but that wasn't actually critical to the story, which is really about obsession, loss, and moral dilemmas. Some of the other characters are rather over-the-top melodramatic with madness and rapacious sexuality playing a large part. And there is a jarring section that is totally out of place - the entire story to that point having been told from the POV of the two main London characters we are suddenly in a conversation between two generals on a battlefield in France, and following their maneuvers. The ending, too, is melodramatic. Still, I think this is worth reading, with all its flaws. On edit: After I review a book sometimes I like to read around and see what published reviews say about it. On this one, the Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote: "part of the problem with the book is that it is so unremittingly downbeat, with no glimmer of hope that anything will improve..." I think there's a lot to criticize in this novel, but this irritated me. Since when is "downbeat" unequivocally a problem in literature? Methinks this reviewer has been spending too much time at Ophra's Book Club.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    This felt strangely familiar, or perhaps inevitable would be a better description. There are the down-trodden though spirited prostitutes of 18th–19th century London. There are the men who are persecuted for preferring boys. There are the spheres within spheres of clandestine work by and against the government – this time surrounding the aftermath of the Revolution in France. (Napoleon is waiting in the wings.) A character's death which seemed probable was inevitable; the main character, Jonatha This felt strangely familiar, or perhaps inevitable would be a better description. There are the down-trodden though spirited prostitutes of 18th–19th century London. There are the men who are persecuted for preferring boys. There are the spheres within spheres of clandestine work by and against the government – this time surrounding the aftermath of the Revolution in France. (Napoleon is waiting in the wings.) A character's death which seemed probable was inevitable; the main character, Jonathan Absey, has a dogged determination to discover his daughter's murderer which combines with a growing disregard for his own safety, professionally and physically, which has predictable results. (The man has some of the most truly, consistently terrible luck of anyone in the world, his or ours.) I enjoyed parts of this book very much. The entire astronomical angle was fascinating – that strange cross between poetry and dreams and hard science, and the elusive planet they believed had to exist between Mars and Jupiter – the formulae were only slightly tortured, and while it might be something very like the "Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln and Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy, etc." string of correlations, it's still a fascinating thing. Despite some of the well-worn tropes that went into him, Jonathan's half-brother Alexander had some real originality to him, and I enjoyed him and his past and his circumscribed world. Poor man – his luck isn't much better than his brother's. There were some good ideas for the espionage aspect. The setting was not done poorly; it was very vivid in places. The unfortunate thing was that it just felt like so many of the gaslit mysteries I've read. And the shocking revelation of who the killer was … wasn't that shocking. Not as shocking as some of what happened to minor characters, at least. I had hoped that there was a sequel, perhaps, in which Alexander and Jonathan search for a person who goes missing near the end of the book – but I guess the little part of me that became invested in the book and its world will just have to go on worrying about him. Honestly, I think it was largely the sheer unrelenting bad fortune Absey experienced that made this less than a favorite. Blow after blow after blow … in a way it's reminiscent of Harry Dresden taking beating after beating and still plowing forward. But Harry has much more of a sense of humor, and so do the Dresden Files. And that makes all the difference. http://www.universetoday.com/14869/wa...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    Martha Grimes says in a jacket blurb that The Music of the Spheres is "Dickensian in its descriptions of London." It has been a long time since I've read Dickens, but this book is much darker what I remember of Dickens. Elizabeth Redfern does a masterful job of depicting London and its environs in the late 1700s as a barren, dirty, mean place, a place where no one is really safe from attack, not even Jonathan Absey of the Home Office, whose job it is to ferret out spies in the war between the En Martha Grimes says in a jacket blurb that The Music of the Spheres is "Dickensian in its descriptions of London." It has been a long time since I've read Dickens, but this book is much darker what I remember of Dickens. Elizabeth Redfern does a masterful job of depicting London and its environs in the late 1700s as a barren, dirty, mean place, a place where no one is really safe from attack, not even Jonathan Absey of the Home Office, whose job it is to ferret out spies in the war between the English and the French. To add to the plot's complications, the French Revolution has muddied the waters of spydom. Also, a spate of murders of red-headed prostitutes has taken place in London. One of those red-headed girls happened to be Absey's own wayward fifteen-year old daughter, the first victim of the murderer. Absey's pitiful brother, the musician and amateur astronomer, Alexander Absey, gets caught up in a star-watching society called the Company of Titus, amateur astronomers who hope to find a lost star. Jonathan find himself in the position of not only looking for spies, but also trying to figure out what his brother's role is in the communications that result in the failure of the British campaign on French soil. As with every other plot element in the book, Alexander's innocent actions lead to certain disaster. What drives the work, however, is Absey's obsession with finding his daughter's killer. He is convinced that doing so will lead him to the person who has killed the other prostitutes. As in many modern-day detective novelsand TV shows, Absey's hunches are given little credence by his superiors, so he's left to his own devices. This leads him into more danger as the mystery unfolds and the reader slowly learns who has murdered the prostitutes. The who of the crime is almost less interesting than the why. What seem to be crimes of passion turn out to be motivated by something altogether different. Redfern is unrelenting in her view of the degradation, not just of London, but also of human nature. People will turn on each other for the most innocuous of reasons. The body count piles higher and higher as the plot progresses. In fact, it's a wonder anyone is left alive at the end. Redfern has created a dystopia from the past that is just as horrifying as anything we might find in the future. The book is one a reader will get lost in, but it doesn't make for good bedtime reading.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    Well, I got about 75 pages in and found it to be much more dark and depressing than I thought it would be, and wasn't in the mood for that kind of book, so I returned it to the library. I did find it interesting because you learn who the murderer is in the first chapter, which I think is something I like, for a change of pace, in mystery books, and don't find that often, so I think I will give this another try at a later date when I'm feeling more like a dark book. The book, so far, took place in Well, I got about 75 pages in and found it to be much more dark and depressing than I thought it would be, and wasn't in the mood for that kind of book, so I returned it to the library. I did find it interesting because you learn who the murderer is in the first chapter, which I think is something I like, for a change of pace, in mystery books, and don't find that often, so I think I will give this another try at a later date when I'm feeling more like a dark book. The book, so far, took place in England just after the French revolution. England was afraid that revolt would spread to their country as well. The main character works for the Home Office, and his job is to read intercepted mail from the French, looking for anything suspicious. His mind is not into his work, though, because his daughter, who had been working as a prostitute, had been murder the year before. The police decided the case was not important, so he has been trying to find the killer himself. As the book begins, he learns that more red-haired prostitutes have been murdered. It seems like a serial killer is on the loose, and the only lead is that the killer talks about the stars. This leads the main character to contact his half-brother, who is an ameteur astronomer, and who owes the main character his life. Interesting plot, and an interesting twist as far as the murderer is concerned, just a very dark story: drowned infants, bestiality, and urine soaked old ladies, oh my! P.S. I read the book, I didn't listen to the tapes, but I wanted to have the correct cover. I'm perfectionistic that way;)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lighthearted

    This book received excellent reviews from Booklist, Library Journal, BookPage and Kirkus—only Publisher’s Weekly seems to share my disappointment. The Music of the Spheres is an historical thriller set in England during the French Revolution. Someone is killing red-haired prostitutes and the murders might be connected with the Revolution, they might be connected with a group of astronomers known as the Company of Titius—or they might be connected with both. The premise IS interesting and with a l This book received excellent reviews from Booklist, Library Journal, BookPage and Kirkus—only Publisher’s Weekly seems to share my disappointment. The Music of the Spheres is an historical thriller set in England during the French Revolution. Someone is killing red-haired prostitutes and the murders might be connected with the Revolution, they might be connected with a group of astronomers known as the Company of Titius—or they might be connected with both. The premise IS interesting and with a little more editing, this could have been a good read. I did figure out who the murderer was early on—I figured out who the mysterious Selene was early on as well—but that’s not what disappointed me—I’m disappointed in the overall character development. With the exceptions of the prostitutes (who are only with us for a few paragraphs), the characters simply didn’t feel real to me. Worse than the character development however, was the apparent attempt to include as many aspects of depravity as possible. Like anything else, if scenes of depravity are going to be written into the story, they should offer something to the storyline—in this case, they seemed to be included for shock value only. My biggest gripe is the detailed rape scenes of a boy—this boy has nothing to do with the storyline—the scenes just feel tossed in. I skipped over the scenes as best as I could—again, they had nothing to offer the storyline. To quote PW, “This is a good example of a book where less would have been more.”

  17. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    In the London of 1795, intrigue and death walk the dark streets. England is at war with its neighbor and nemesis, France, and espionage is rampant. It is the job of Jonathan Absey at the Home Office to catch these spies, but his mind is elsewhere, his dreams haunted by the still unsolved murder of his fifteen-year-old daughter on these same streets. Desperately pursuing both investigations, he stumbles across a strange society of astronomers called the Company of Titius who are on a furious searc In the London of 1795, intrigue and death walk the dark streets. England is at war with its neighbor and nemesis, France, and espionage is rampant. It is the job of Jonathan Absey at the Home Office to catch these spies, but his mind is elsewhere, his dreams haunted by the still unsolved murder of his fifteen-year-old daughter on these same streets. Desperately pursuing both investigations, he stumbles across a strange society of astronomers called the Company of Titius who are on a furious search of their own: to discover a long-lost star in the wide black sky. As he digs into their arcane world, their quest begins to merge with his own, and Absey finds himself discovering more than he had ever imagined — not only about spies and murderers but also about celestial numbers and the making of codes; about passions as unnatural as they are obsessive; and about the bonds of family...and the lengths we will go to preserve them. With The Music of the Spheres, Elizabeth Redfern emerges as an evocative and elegant writer of startling power, her gifts for characterization, atmosphere, narrative, and rich moral drama marking her as a new star in her own right. (cover blurb) Atmospheric, spooky and full of red herrings. Kept me misguessing the identity of the murderer until the final few pages. Lovely work.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Lloyd

    The end of the 18th century is a fascinating era, when French spies mixed with the aristocratic emigres in London, who had fled to save their heads. The city was a dangerous place for the underclass and Jonathan Absey becomes obsessed with solving the murders of several prostitutes because he believes his daughter was the first victim. Suspicion falls upon the household of Auguste de Montpellier and her sick brother Guy. Aided by Doctor Raultier, Guy fights his illness to prove the existence of a The end of the 18th century is a fascinating era, when French spies mixed with the aristocratic emigres in London, who had fled to save their heads. The city was a dangerous place for the underclass and Jonathan Absey becomes obsessed with solving the murders of several prostitutes because he believes his daughter was the first victim. Suspicion falls upon the household of Auguste de Montpellier and her sick brother Guy. Aided by Doctor Raultier, Guy fights his illness to prove the existence of a new planet which he calls Selene, which he believes must exist after the discovery of Uranus by Herschel in 1781. Jonathan persuades his half-brother Alexander Wilmot, a gifted musician and amateur astronomer to make contact with the Montpelliers so that he can discover their secrets, but Alexander is unwilling to betray his new friends and walks into a perilous situation. There is a gothic quality to this novel, several characters implying languorous evil and sexual deviance.  The historical content is sound, and the suspense increases with each new murder, but only Alexander earns our empathy and for this reason was the only character I could believe in.  Choose this novel for revelations about post-revolutionary Europe and an insight into scientific interests at that time but do not expect to become emotionally involved with people you meet within its pages.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    Dark, depressing, disturbing, dirty – London 1795 during the Revolution A killer is after red headed prostitues in London. Jonathan Absey is interested since his young daughter was also killed this way. He becomes obsessed with finding the killer and involved to the point of losing his livelihood. In general I found the description of life’s poverty and women during that time disheartening and demeaning. Many redheads lost more than their self-esteem after a quick romp for spare change. Jonathan Dark, depressing, disturbing, dirty – London 1795 during the Revolution A killer is after red headed prostitues in London. Jonathan Absey is interested since his young daughter was also killed this way. He becomes obsessed with finding the killer and involved to the point of losing his livelihood. In general I found the description of life’s poverty and women during that time disheartening and demeaning. Many redheads lost more than their self-esteem after a quick romp for spare change. Jonathan enlists the help of his half brother to infiltrate a group of stargazers from France who have resources to look for star Selene. The passion of the astronomers is prevalent despite the illness, madness, lust and brutality of their life in England. I thought this book was going to be a little different – more mystery about a serial killer than the stars and spies. While I believe some of the text related to the wars, espionage and stars were needed to explain the characters; I think they could have been greatly reduced. I found these areas boring, tedious and really skipped over them. This reduction could have made the book a lot shorter and more memorable. I am giving it 3*s since many of the parts I really did enjoy and thought were descriptive and well written.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    The mystery kept me interested and engaged. The author has a nice style and knows how to interweave characters and historical events. I found the sexual threads unnecessary and distracting. Why must so many of the characters be deviants? Why and how does Augustine wield so much power over so many? Nothing in the story leads me to a reasonable understanding of this. This novel is ok. What makes me sad is that I think it is just steps away from being good. I doubt I would select another of her book The mystery kept me interested and engaged. The author has a nice style and knows how to interweave characters and historical events. I found the sexual threads unnecessary and distracting. Why must so many of the characters be deviants? Why and how does Augustine wield so much power over so many? Nothing in the story leads me to a reasonable understanding of this. This novel is ok. What makes me sad is that I think it is just steps away from being good. I doubt I would select another of her books. Time is an investment and this did not have enough of a payoff in my view.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    I found this book to be predictable. I have to say that there was only one likeable character in this book but unfortunately that character was only a tool to lend a Desade like gloom over the book and truly inconsequential to the plot. I enjoy a well thought up villain and there were plenty of villains in this book but besides the impulse to quote Milton, sociopathy, and corruption all of them seemed to lack something. Normally if I take the time to finish a book I find some gleaming morsel tha I found this book to be predictable. I have to say that there was only one likeable character in this book but unfortunately that character was only a tool to lend a Desade like gloom over the book and truly inconsequential to the plot. I enjoy a well thought up villain and there were plenty of villains in this book but besides the impulse to quote Milton, sociopathy, and corruption all of them seemed to lack something. Normally if I take the time to finish a book I find some gleaming morsel that makes it worth the time it took but I’m only happy it is over.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    This is a rich, multi-layered novel that intrigues, fascinates and irritates in turns. This was Ms Redfern's debut novel and a combination of effective writing and intriguing characters with some mystery and science blended in makes for a fascinating combination. Irritating? Well the ending didn't 'feel right'. But I realised that this was a direct consequence of my having become attached to the characters and substituting my own preferences over the author's. Recommended to those readers who en This is a rich, multi-layered novel that intrigues, fascinates and irritates in turns. This was Ms Redfern's debut novel and a combination of effective writing and intriguing characters with some mystery and science blended in makes for a fascinating combination. Irritating? Well the ending didn't 'feel right'. But I realised that this was a direct consequence of my having become attached to the characters and substituting my own preferences over the author's. Recommended to those readers who enjoy some science and mystery in historical fiction. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marsha

    I worked very hard to read this book and like it, at least a little. I tend to agree with many of the other reviews - the author seemed intent on including as much sex (illicit sex at that - incest, child molestation, rape, etc.) as she could. Sex may sell, to some degree, but this was largely irrelevant to most of the story. I found my mind wandering on more than one occasion because it just didn't hold my attention.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Devon Forest

    I chose this book solely on the cover/title (along with the fact that it did sound semi-interesting). There were sections of the book that kept my interest, but overall it was very slow moving. I felt like it could've been told in a lot fewer pages and with less tangents. About 3/4 into the book it started to pick up for me, but then the last 50 pages went downhill again. It was just a little confusing for me.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Carmen Long

    I took me almost two weeks to read this book, mostly because I just couldn't "get into" it. I bought it at a thrift store thinking it sounded familiar and that I must have read a review somewhere. I almost always finish a book once I've started it, but the only way I finished this one was to sit down and force myself to read until I was done. I'm not saying the book was horrible. I just didn't care for it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Khuck

    Set in 18th c. London, this novel is a nice blend of history, mystery, astronomy, and the English-French struggle. Jonathan Absey works for the Home Office monitoring foreign correspondence when a rash of murders distracts him from his duties...or gets tangled amidst his duties! Why is he so obsessed with the murders of red-headed prostitutes in the dark alleys of London? Because his own daughter was a victim!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    The beginning of this book really grabbed me with its mystery and detailed descriptions along with evoking vocabulary; however, the story began to drag on and lose my interest. I think more editing would have helped (too many details for me).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nolo Vinestrike

    From the synopsis I felt this book had a lot of promise, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. The prose dragged on. I got bored part way through the book. I finished it, but I can't say that it was satisfing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sjkimball

    meh--it was an audio book, and Tim Curry did an outrageously good job of reading it, which made up for the so-so plot.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Julia Herdman

    I really wanted to like this book. I picked it up in a charity shop a couple of weeks ago and was drawn to it becasue the story was set in more or less the same period as my own novel and because it was by a female author. I liked the idea of a story about the stars and spies, codes and murder and was really looking forward to settling down to a good thriller. Unfortunately, the whole story became a rather slow and sordid one. Nothing and no one in the book was attractive. In fact the world the I really wanted to like this book. I picked it up in a charity shop a couple of weeks ago and was drawn to it becasue the story was set in more or less the same period as my own novel and because it was by a female author. I liked the idea of a story about the stars and spies, codes and murder and was really looking forward to settling down to a good thriller. Unfortunately, the whole story became a rather slow and sordid one. Nothing and no one in the book was attractive. In fact the world the author created was so awful I was surprised that there wasn't a queue of people on London Bridge ready to throw themselves into the Thames to escape from it! I did read the book to the end which is some form of recommendation as I don't usually bother if the book bores me, so, the author must have cajoled just enough interest in the main protagonist to keep me on board but the end was ultimately unsatisfying.

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