Rose

Rose

4.5 25
by Martin Cruz Smith
     
 

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The American adventurer Jonathan Blair has been chased by scandal out of West Africa to the stranger land of Victorian England. Gin-soaked and shaking from malaria, he must travel to Wigan, a town in the darkest part of England, to solve the mysterious disappearance of a young cleric. Nineteenth-century Wigan is two worlds. On the surface it is a serene baize-green… See more details below

Overview

The American adventurer Jonathan Blair has been chased by scandal out of West Africa to the stranger land of Victorian England. Gin-soaked and shaking from malaria, he must travel to Wigan, a town in the darkest part of England, to solve the mysterious disappearance of a young cleric. Nineteenth-century Wigan is two worlds. On the surface it is a serene baize-green land of the moneyed. But in the pits that reach a mile below the surface lurks a separate world where coal miners eke out their short, violent lives covered in black dust. And while the world on the surface may have fine ladies, the world of miners has pit girls, the social and sexual scandal of the country. The missing cleric, John Maypole, has crossed the line. He was engaged to Charlotte, the daughter of the bishop who owns the mine. But Charlotte is as cold as ice, and Maypole seems to have had a fatal encounter with the opposite sort of woman, an earthy, unforgettable pit girl - Rose. Maypole vanished the same day that seventy-six men died in an explosion and firedamp in the bishop's mine. Blair finds himself involved with the workers who make the bishop rich, miners whose existence is marked by brutal labor and blood sports, and pit girls notorious even in London - and with his own shadowy origins.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though Arkady Renko is absent from Smith's latest novel, the author of Red Square (1992), etc., has created instead a new protagonist, Jonathan Blair, a 19th-century man in the best muscular detective tradition. Until 1872, Blair was an avid explorer of Africa's Gold Coast, but now he has been exiled by his employer, Bishop Hannay, to the Lancashire mining town of Wigan. Blair's ostensible mission is to find John Rowland, the missing curate who was engaged to Hannay's daughter, but he quickly learns that he'll need all his bush survival skills just to stay alive in Wigan, where no one seems to want the curate found. Much of Blair's gritty charm lies in his hatred of all things English, just as he is hated in turn by the aristocratic Hannays, their peer relations, the Rowlands-and the miners. On the first day of his investigation, Blair steps on nearly every toe in a very touchy town, including those of Bill Jaxon, a miner skilled at a blood sport in which naked men fight with brass-studded clogs. Blair ends up on the wrong end of a clog more than once when he intuits that Jaxon's "pit girl" (a woman who sorts coal) may have lured the curate to his doom. Smith molds a spirited, sexy mystery and fires it with his characteristic love of atmosphere. But his real treat for readers is Blair, whose spicy observations imbue even this gray landscape with prismatic color, and whose verbal sparring matches with the Hannays and Rowlands are equal to Waugh in their hilarious, scathing send-up of English upper-class incivility. Smith's extravagant talent runs the spectrum here from sparkling dialogue and tantalizing mystery to grim, graphic depictions of mining life that sear both the conscience and the imagination. Simultaneous Random House Audio and large-print edition; author tour. (May)
Library Journal
By the author of Gorky Park (1981), this novel, set in 19th-century Lancashire, mixes mining, mystery, and romance.
Kirkus Reviews
Smith (Red Square, 1992, etc.) not only sets his exuberant, sly new novel in Victorian England but goes Victorian novelists one better, conjuring up a plot device at the heart of this mystery that Dickens would envy.

Set in the town of Wigan, in Lancashire, this latest from Smith doesn't simply evoke the past, it plunges us into the gritty reality of a mid-19th-century community dominated by its vast coal mines. We learn an extraordinary amount about the brutal world of mining, but more importantly we come to feel a part of Wigan, so actual do its streets and inhabitants seem. It's this dense world that lingers: The plot is, with its one exception, a rather unsurprising mystery. Jonathan Blair, a mining engineer and explorer who has returned from Africa under a cloud (there are rumors of fraud), is summoned by his erstwhile employer, Bishop Hannay (who owns much of Wigan, including its largest coal mine), and set on the trail of the fianceé of Hannay's daughter Charlotte. John Maypole, a fervent young minister, had disappeared on the same day that an explosion in Hannay's mine killed 75 men. Charlotte, bright, acerbic, radical, takes an immediate dislike to the laconic Blair. He, in turn, is fascinated by Rose Molyneux, a remarkably independent "pit girl" (women employed by the mines, pit girls are notorious in England for their clothes—they wear trousers under vestigial dresses—and the supposed easiness of their morals). Blair is menaced by two miners, blithe sadists determined to stop his inquiry. A dogged, shrewd investigator, he takes a huge amount of punishment before uncovering Maypole's sad fate. And, in the midst of a dangerous affair with Rose, he discovers the remarkable scheme linking her and Charlotte Hannay. It's a dazzling moment.

Blair, Rose, and Smith's other characters are wonderful creations, robust and distinctive. The crimes here are unremarkable, but the world evoked is memorable, glowing with life.

From the Publisher

"A superb thriller that will keep the reader breathless right up to the final page."
—San Francisco Chronicle

"THE MOST INTERESTING AND RICHLY TEXTURED CRIME STORY OF THE SEASON."
—Time

"[SMITH] AT THE TOP OF HIS FORM . . . It is fun, the well-plotted, dense fun of an intelligent, shadowy, literary enigma. . . . Brisk and edifying entertainment."
—The New York Times

"A JOY TO READ."
—The Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780345390448
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/01/1997
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
5.47(w) x 8.28(h) x 1.13(d)

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