Hearts. This is all about hearts, restless or yearning, broken or bleeding. – from Bleeding Heart Square, page 229 –
Andrew Taylor’s latest crime mystery is a literary whodunnit set in London in the early 1930’s. Lydia Langstone, leaves her abusive marriage and arrives to live with her father, Captain Ingleby-Lewis, at Number 7 Bleeding Heart Square. Also residing in the building is Joseph Serrige who is a rather mysterious character with a dark past; and Rory Wentwood who has recently parted ways with his girlfriend Fennela Kensley. What binds all these characters together is the disappearance of an older woman named Miss Penhow who has not been seen for four years.
Taylor has crafted a novel with twists and turns and a few gory details – such as the rotting hearts which keep arriving at Bleeding Heart Square addressed to Serrige.
Mrs. Renton pulled the knot apart and coiled the string into a roll. She unwrapped the parcel gingerly. The smell grew steadily worse. Finally she drew back the last fold of brown paper, exposing an object like a misshapen egg about four inches long and two inches high. most of it was a dark, mottled red, bu there were streaks of a pale yellow embedded into its texture, and minute white specks milled about almost invisibly on its surface.
“Meat,” Mrs. Renton said.
“But its rotten,” Lydia said, shocked.
“I can see that,” Ingleby-Lewis barked. Holding his nose, he came nearer. “Damn it, those are maggots. What the blazes is it doing here?”
Mrs. Renton looked at Lydia. “Nothing to do with me.”
“What is it, anyway?” he asked ina quieter voice.
“It’s a heart, sir,” Mrs. Renton said. “A rotten heart.” – from Bleeding Heart Square, page 21 –
Narrated from multiple viewpoints and including snippets of the missing woman’s diary with commentary from an unidentified character, Taylor’s story builds slowly and steadily to its surprising conclusion.
Bleeding Heart Square is a mystery novel entrenched in the history of the time period between the Great Wars including the British Union of Fascists introduction into English society. It also covers such social issues as abusive marriages, adultery, divorce and the role of women during that time. These larger themes, as well as Taylor’s adept use of language, set this novel apart from other mysteries.
The first half of the book is a bit slow and there are many characters who weave in and out of the narrative which requires attention from the reader to keep them all straight. But despite the leisurely start, Bleeding Heart Square picks up its pace mid-way and becomes hard to put down. Atmospheric, rich in historical detail, and written with a literary flair, this novel is recommended to readers who enjoy historical fiction, whodunnit mysteries and British literature.
Bleeding Heart Square was published earlier this month. More information may be found at the Hyperion Website.
About Andrew Taylor: