I kept reading about Patricia Finney and how good her books were, but because the first ones were not available on Kindle, I confess, I was reluctant to read them (I need to explain this. I am an avid bedtime reader and, before Kindle and ebooks with backlights, I would keep my partner awake or be forced to sit up in another room reading – even the little bed-lights you can get were a nuisance as turning pages and shifting it could be noisy and sometimes, the light was more like sleeping next to a lighthouse as the beam would strike your face occasionally. As a consequence, once ebooks came out, I felt liberated and my partner relieved. He always felt guilty about being unable to sleep when I read, as if he was responsible for cutting me off from that particular avenue of pleasure!). Then I found Do We Not Bleed? The first in Finney’s James Enys mysteries as an electronic book.
What a wonderful tale. Set in the 1580s it centres on a young lawyer James Enys, who is not all he seems. After discovering a brutally murdered woman in the back alleys of London, the smart but rather quiet and sad Enys is teamed with the Puritan zealot with the marvellous name, Malverny Catlyn (who, it just so happens, was a real person and member of Sir Francis Walsingham’s formidable spy network), in order to track down the murderer. But this is no ordinary one, but a serial killer, preying upon the whores of London and Southwark and dissecting them in a manner that demonstrates both knowledge and a serious perversion.
Also aiding Enys in his mission is the playwright, William Shakespeare, ladies’ man and currently struggling for work.
The strength of this book lies in the detail – of London streets, life, the richness of the language and the way Finney describes everything from someone puking, menstruating, to the interactions between “upright men” (basically, a pimp) and their whores. Descriptions of interiors and exteriors place you in the moment and whether you like it or not, the various sounds, odours and realities of life in this period linger long after the page is closed. There is also a wonderful weaving of actual historical figures and fictional characters – something I love.
I was not surprised to learn that Finney also writes as PF Chisolm, whose series I am also reading at present and thoroughly enjoying – yes, in ebook form.
Having Shakespeare as a character in Do We Not Bleed? is a bonus and there are little poetic asides where we find Shakespeare waxing lyrical or daydreaming and creating and if you’re familiar with his work, you know how that particular moment will manifest in one of his pieces. There is something very “Shakespearian” about the tale (as readers will discover) and one of the lead character’s names (not mentioned here) gestures to this. But the novel itself is very poetic and nuanced. It is a treat in every sense and I cannot wait for the next instalment.
I have also ordered and received the first three of Finney’s books, starting with Firedrake’s Eye as paperbacks and am also loving the style and the way in which you’re drawn into the era. Stay tuned for that review soon!