Book review: The Equivoque Principle
Capsule: A faux Victorian mystery starring Cornelius Quaint, a stage magician who runs a traveling circus. Prometheus, the circus’ strong man, is accused of murder. As Quaint investigates, he finds a much deeper mystery.
sexual content: mild
I read a lot of Victorian mysteries, and I like circus folks and stage magic, so I was looking forward to this.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The violence was much more graphic than one might encounter in, say, a Sherlock Holmes story. Oh, there is some violence in Holmes, but not like this.
More of a problem for me was the main character. There just wasn’t much to distinguish Cornelius Quaint for me. His main characteristic seemed to be bulldoggedness. While that’s good in a detective, I don’t know that I could ever say that a line sounded like something Cornelius Quaint would say.
Detectives don’t always have to have quirks, but they should have something that makes them stand out.
Another issue for me was the anachronisms. True, they aren’t things that the characters encounter, exactly, but it pulled me up short to see someone’s voice described as ‘robotic”. The book takes place in the 1850s, and the word robot wasn’t coined until the 1920s. In another instance, someone is described on “running on fumes”, which refers to a gasoline (petrol) powered engine. Again, neither of those are said by characters, but the story is generally told in the style of a Victorian novel, so that’s jarring.
Even odder was the use of the phrase, “Feet, don’t fail me now.”* I could be wrong, but that’s something I associate with the 1940s…notably with comedian Willie Best in Bob Hope’s The Ghost Breakers. Maybe that was a reference to something Victorian or earlier, but I doubt it.
The characters surrounding Quaint were more interesting, and the plot was reasonably well-constructed. I was really quite enjoying the story in the very beginning, and I was pretty optimistic. However, the graphic violence and the generally harsh tone after the first few chapters was less attractive.
Do I think Cornelius Quaint will find an audience? Yes. I think my familiarity with actual Victorian writing probably made me a tougher sale. 🙂 I do watch some violent media, but that’s not something I prefer. Quaint’s Inuit friend, Butter, and the circus’ fortune-teller, Madame Destine, were interesting and made the cinematic story more intriguing.
Obviously, somebody thought people would want to read more, since a sequel (The Eleventh Plague) is due to be released in the UK on March 4th and on June 1 in the US.
Special Kindle note: they made the unfortunate choice of using backquotes instead of straight quotes. If you are listening with the text-to-speech, it will take steely determination to ignore it saying the word “backquote” every time anybody says anything. 🙂
*Also said as, “Feets, don’t fail me now.”
For more Kindle information, please see my other blog, ILMK.