The Hourglass Factory

Lucy Ribchester. Pegasus (Norton, dist.), $25.95 (512p) ISBN 978-1-60598-968-6
Ribchester’s energetic debut builds a quirky mystery around the 1912 suffrage demonstrations and hunger strikes in London, which authorities met with mass arrests, later force-feeding the prisoners. Aspiring journalist Francesca “Frankie” George, who wears men’s clothes and chafes at her lowly newspaper job, senses an opportunity for advancement when asked to profile trapeze artist and suffragette Ebony Diamond. Instead, she discovers two deaths that seem to be failed attacks on the acrobat shortly before Diamond suddenly disappears. Frankie’s quest for answers threatens her life and leads her to Frederick Primrose, a weary detective inspector at the Scotland Yard squad tasked with controlling the suffragettes’ constant disruptions. Their converging investigations wend through harrowing prisons, seedy variety shows, a suffrage leader’s office, and a corset shop that is more than it seems. The novel’s phantasmagoric world and complex themes, from gender and class inequity to the justifications for violent activism, are fascinating. But Ribchester fails to give her idiosyncratic characters or her story’s myriad elements (the Titanic, Jack the Ripper, fetishism, poison ivy, snake charming, and the Tarot, among other things) the full development they deserve, making the book feel overcrowded and emotionally flat despite its imaginative strength. Agent: David Forrer, Inkwell Management. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/18/2016
Release date: 03/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-1-4711-3930-7
Open Ebook - 512 pages - 978-1-68177-110-6
Hardcover - 640 pages - 978-1-4104-8980-7
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-1-68177-336-0
Downloadable Audio - 512 pages - 978-1-4711-5092-0
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