Lawless and The Devil of Euston Square struck me as an enigma of sorts. The whole pre-“Sherlock Holmes” detective gambit and Victorian era had me running around in pandemic circles; I absolutely had to read this story. Here is the snippet on the back:
“London, 1859. Novice detective, Campbell Lawless, stumbles onto the trail of Berwick Skelton, an elusive revolutionary, threatening to bring the city to its knees with devilish acts of terror.
Thrust into a lethal, intoxicating world of sabotage and royal scandal – and aided by a gang of street urchins and a vivacious librarian – Lawless sets out to capture his underworld nemesis before he unleashes his final vengeance.”
So, sounds smashingly brilliant, am I right? Now that I’ve read it and enjoyed it, I’ve come to the conclusion that I didn’t love it as much as I was expecting to. The book starts out on fire with intrigue, water pipe eruptions, brilliant displays of setting and the tongue of the common-folk which at times was a bit tricky for me to follow. I felt like I stepped into a whole different world straight from the past and it transitioned so smoothly as if William Sutton was a simple newspaper writer, sitting on a bench detailing the daily events of the time. On a side note, Lawless and The Devil of Euston square is stock full of possible suspects and conspirators.
I tried paying close attention to each detail, trying to be a world renowned sleuth of my own means, locking on to each tiny detail in an attempt to garner a broader glimpse of the wheels in motion behind scenes. But, after a while… it began to drag.
The drag really hurt the book and sad to say, I started feeling little care anymore about whether the crime / intended crimes were solved or not by Lawless. What should have been a truly fantastic ending, seemed ill-placed when expecting it forty-or so pages earlier. To top it all off, our main hero, Lawless, in the end throws out some feelings on the conclusion of his case, that leave you even more flabbergasted as to why you should have even cared either if he doesn’t fully believe in his actions.
Lawless and The Devil of Euston Square was a solid and substantial read. However, it might have been excellent if it had tightened up near the end a tad more. I think in a year or so, I might actually take second look into this one and reread it, gauging my review against a second glance. Lawless and The Devil of Euston Square has its highs and lows and I fully appreciate the skill of storytelling William Sutton possesses. This might be one of those rare novels in which I recommend simply reading it yourself to form a more personal opinion.