I’m a great fan of John Boyne’s books. I started of course with The boy in the striped pyjamas, but have since read almost all his books. There are very few authors whose books I look forward to as much as I do with his.
This book is set in 1910 (and the years before that), and is as the title suggested ‘A novel of murder’, Indeed one knows for sure what murder will be committed, but the events leading up to it and resulting in it are beautifully shown over the first four hundred pages or so.
I only found out after reading this book that it’s actually based on a real murder case, and was the first case where wireless communication played a big role (without the invention of the Marconi Telegraph the Transatlantic chase would have been impossible). Apparently Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen has his own wax statue in Madame Tussauds Horror Room. (I’ve been doing my research (Read Wikipedia))
My own opinion on Crippen (the book character, not the actual man) changed as the story progressed. At first I thought he was very cold and setbacks in his medical career had made him bitter. But I ended up feeling sympathy because Cora Crippen really was a terrible character.
What I really loved was that there was a connection between this book and some of John Boyne’s other books. Mathieu Zéla and one of his ‘cousins’ are also on board of the SS Montrose (Zéla is the main character from The Thief of Time, and also makes a brief appearance in Mutiny on the Bounty; possibly he’s in other books as well, but they might be very subtle and I may have missed them), also Captain Kendark is an enthusiastic admirer of William Bligh (Captain of the Bounty). I love this kind of little hints to other books =)
The story is told through multiple time lines, some of them effectively overlapping near the end, so you get plenty of chance to create your own deductions (which I always like to do). I really enjoyed this book, I would definitely recommend it!
Crippen – John Boyne