Maude Horton’s Glorious Revenge by Lizzie Pook
Historical Fiction | Mystery
This is one of those stories that I went into, fully not knowing what to expect. I was drawn in by the incredible title and cover work, the hint at adventure and revenge all wrapped up into a historical mystery. And while Maude Horton’s Glorious Revenge certainly provided all those elements, it was also a layered, character-focused story that explored the seedy underbelly of the Victorian era.
Told between varying perspectives of Maude, her sister’s ship diaries, and Edison Stowe — a greedy and manipulative man that Maude suspects had a hand in her sister’s death — readers are slowly able to piece together the truth. Uncovering the truth is a key part of the plot, but the mystery itself is fairly straightforward — and the emphasis is really on the journey Maude takes in her quest for answers.
The writing itself is mesmerizingly beautiful. On the very first page, we have descriptions like, “Cloaked in the fumes of cheap meat pies…” and “An eel-jelly smog hangs low over the Thames.” There were so many moments where I had to stop and revel in the imagery on the page. It was vivid, gorgeous, and actively transported me to the streets of Victorian London.
At the same time, this was a much darker book than I was expecting. The cover quote by Ellery Lloyd calls this book a “Rip-roaring and guillotine sharp critique of Victorian ‘murder-mania…'” and that sums it up well. It is not a historical cozy or simply a “fun adventure novel” — it is a gritty and often disturbing look at both murder and humans’ fascination with it. There is a fair amount of violence within the novel, including details about both human and animal cruelty and death.
Overall, I thought this was a very intriguing and well-written novel, that didn’t shy away from the macabre. The ending missed the mark for me a little (in terms of reader satisfaction) but overall, the story feels unique in comparison to other Victorian Era historical fiction and was very readable. Pook is a fantastic writer and absolutely managed to immerse me in Maude’s glorious tale of revenge.
Fans of dark and gritty historical fiction
This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Copy of the book provided courtesy of the publisher, Simon and Schuster Canada. All opinions expressed are my own.
About the book:
(From the publisher) Twenty-year-old Constance Horton has run away from her life in Victorian London, disguising herself as a boy to board the Makepeace, an expedition vessel bound for the icy and unexplored Northwest Passage of the Arctic. She struggles to keep her real identity a secret on the ship, a feat that only grows more difficult when facing off with the constant dangers of the icy North.
Even more dangerous than the cold, the storms, and the hunger, are some of the men aboard—including the ship’s scientist Edison Stowe. He seems to be watching Constance, and she knows that his attention could be fatal.
In London two years later: Maude Horton is searching for the truth. After being told by the British Admiralty that her sister’s death onboard the Makepeace was nothing more than a tragic accident, she receives a diary revealing that Edison Stowe had more of a hand in Constance’s death than the returning crew acknowledged.
In order to get the answers she needs, Maude decides to shadow Edison. She joins him on a new venture he’s started to capitalize on the murder mania that has all of London in a frenzy—a travel company that takes guests around the country via train to witness public hangings—to extract the truth from him in any way possible. As tensions and dangers mount, it ultimately falls to Maude to enact the ultimate revenge to get justice for her sister.