(A brief explanation: This was originally intended to be a single post, but rapidly veered into frighteningly long territory. So I’ve separated it into chunks, which hopefully make sense on their own, but are all part of a beautiful whole. For one thing, it gives me four posts out of one, and consequently a warm glow of satisfaction. Btw, I’m posting in reverse order so that it’s easier to read them in sequence, which is why they’re all appearing at once. Who knows? If this works, maybe next time, I’ll post sentence by sentence…)
So onto the book I just finished: Paul Lawrence’s The Sweet Smell of Decay, a whodunit set in Restoration London. Which does what it says on the tin. If the title doesn’t give enough of a hint, the first paragraph pretty much nails it for the casual browser.
"As I gazed upon her face a small black beetle emerged from the ruins of her right eye. It stood uncertainly upon the crest of her cheekbone as if suddenly reluctant to step out further. Though I looked upon the beetle as if it was something unutterably revolting – still I felt like we two had something in common. The butcher reached over, picked it up gently between his thumb and stubby forefinger then crushed it. I could hardly protest. He wiped its remains upon his shirt.”
In short, not for the squeamish. I could go on about imagery and metaphor, the plot and machinations uncovered by the narrator, but I don’t really feel like dissecting the book like this. For one thing, I don’t know if it’s robust enough to take it. Suffice it to say that the book doth wallow in the muckety muckmuck mire. Mud splashes, corpses are disinterred, people are killed horribly and putrefy even more horribly, rats eat unmentionably horrible things chopped off people, and everything rots.
Kind of reminiscent of Perfume. Although the latter is a much better book. But this one’s not bad – my biggest issue is that the human characters are a bit thin or self-consciously weird, (aka. “wyrd”) crude or twisted. The most well-rounded character, if you will, is the squalor.
ETA: sorry, blockquote went really screwy...