The Great Stink

Clare Clark, Author
Clare Clark, Author . Harcourt $25 (356p) ISBN 978-0-15-101161-2
Reviewed on: 06/20/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
Hardcover - 575 pages - 978-0-7862-8321-7
Hardcover - 358 pages - 978-0-670-91530-9
Paperback - 356 pages - 978-0-15-603088-5
Paperback - 358 pages - 978-0-14-101833-1
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-89801-1
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-0-547-54008-5
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Dickens fans should devour British author Clark's debut novel, a gripping and richly atmospheric glimpse into the literal underworld of Victorian England—the labyrinthine London sewer system. When the "great stink" of the title—the product of an oppressive heat wave combined with putrid sewage overflow—threatens to shut down the British capital in 1855, the politicians agree to fund massive repairs. That immense public works project is a natural magnet for the corrupt, and engineer William May, a psychologically scarred Crimean War veteran, soon finds his ethics challenged. When he courageously decides not to rubber-stamp the use of inferior brick, he puts his life, his sanity and his family at risk. May's vague recollection of a murder he may have witnessed in the depths of the sewer system results in his becoming the prime suspect and being incarcerated in an asylum. That the mystery's eventual resolution depends a bit too much on a deus ex machina in no way detracts from Clark's considerable achievement in bringing her chosen slice of Victoriana to life. She shows every evidence of being a gifted and sensitive writer in the same league as such historical novelists as Charles Palliser. Agent, Clare Alexander (U.K.). (Oct.)

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