Monday 30 November 2020

Book Review: The Butcher of Berner Street by Alex Reeve

The Butcher of Berner Street by Alex Reeve book cover

 AD* | An anonymous letter summons fledgling journalist Leo Stanhope to an East End club, only for the owner to be found murdered. 

The headlines scream warnings about the ‘Butcher of Berner Street!’ and the journalist behind them – Leo Stanhope – is secretly thrilled to see the effect his words are having.

Leo’s previous work has largely been concentrated on more mundane issues but when an anonymous letter summons him to a club in East London, only for the owner of the club to be found murdered shortly afterwards, Leo sees a story worth pursuing. Not to mention an opportunity to make a name for himself.

Yet the more Leo digs, the stranger the story becomes, taking him from the club to a nearby convent, and into the past of a very unusual woman. But he is not the only one hunting for a killer. And it seems Leo’s initial newspaper reports may have put someone else in grave danger...

Exciting and atmospheric, this novel harkens back to the days of the classic Victorian murder mystery. Journalist Leo Stanhope is the newspaperman asking "whodunnit", as a chance set of circumstances puts him hot on the trail of a shocking murder. One of the first on the scene and a character who remains at the forefront of the action throughout the case, Leo encounters an array of intriguing individuals as he works to uncover the truth and unmask the murderer. 

This is the third novel in the Leo Stanhope series, yet it isn't necessary to have read the previous two books in order to enjoy this one. Events and characters from past novels are mentioned yet not overly dwelled upon, leaving The Butcher of Berner Street ideal to read as either a standalone novel or as part of the series. 

The characters are engaging and interesting - all have their unique characteristics and intriguingly, all have their secrets, too. From those who openly admit their flaws to others who prefer to keep them hidden away, this is a novel filled with twists and turns throughout. 

The descriptions are vivid yet not overdone, painting a picture of the hardships many endured living in Victorian London. From the poverty and squalor many East End residents both lived and worked in, to the relative contrast of Leo's lodgings and the newspaper offices, the book provides an eye-opening glimpse into the heart of London's past. 

It is also interesting to read about Leo's struggles living as a trans man at a time when it would be widely considered wrong and sinful at the very least. Leo is prepared to go to any lengths to protect his biggest secret, yet it is also heartbreaking to think of the pain that he endures simply to be himself. Although he is largely pragmatic about the situation, it's a sad situation and a real shame. 

All in all, The Butcher of Berner Street is an engaging historical crime novel with plenty of secrets and mystery.

Rating: 3 stars

The Butcher of Berner Street is available to buy now. 

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below! 

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