Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death by Justin Carroll

Ten doors down from the home of a world famous ‘consulting detective’ lives twelve-year-old Hemlock Jones, and her recently arrived housemate and unwitting companion, Edward Whitlow. Hired to ‘demystify’ the mystery of a man’s murder by a terrifying angelic spectre, Hemlock and Edward’s investigations will lead them all over Victorian London, uncovering bizarre and deadly foes, figures from Hemlock’s hidden past, and a plot to take over the city… Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death is the first of the Hemlock Jones Chronicles, a series of detective adventures for children and adults, set in Victorian London.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

What can I say about the first book in the Hemlock Jones series? I could wax lyrical with positive, affirmative adjectives and become lost in hyperbole. And believe me, I really could having loved every single moment I was following twelve-year-old Hemlock and her hapless companion Edward. I will, however try to step back and look at the bigger picture here.

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Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death has all of the critical components for a fun, old-fashioned whodunnit, tearing through the streets of Victorian London. On that point alone this book scores bonus points with me – I am a sucker for anything set in the frankly grimey and brutal locales of Victorian London. The key difference here though is that author Justin Carroll has resisted the urge to paint a dark scene.

In all honesty, setting is only a small part of the story. Granted, the fact that our budding ‘demystifier’ (detective to you and I) lives a mere ten doors from one of fictions great detectives – Sherlock Holmes – at number 211b Baker Street is about the most important piece of location-setting in the whole book.

What really hooked me was the story itself. Carroll has created a fun, vibrant character in the ever-enthusiastic Hemlock Jones and a wonderfully counter-balanced foil in Edward Whitlow who seems resigned to the fact he has little control over the adventures he will no doubt encounter as long as he boards with her.

The whole book plays on the industrial era of London, giving the book a wonderfully-steampunk vibe, something else that I have a fascination in. The sense of fun and adventure, and mild threat throughout is well balanced and the revelation of the culprit is fantastic. It appears Hemlock may have met her match and found a foe with an axe to grind against her. The way the story is delivered is fantastic, as a sort of narrated memoir from Edward lending a feeling there are plenty more scrapes for the pair to battle their way through. I have to say this was one of the most fun books I have read in some time, and knowing that the author is currently working on the second book, with more likely to follow, I cannot wait to read more.

My rating:

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