By Deanna Raybourne
I wasn’t really intending to review this book because it is the fourth in a series that I’d already talked about, but I haven’t posted in a while and I had a serious issue with the conclusion, which I’m going to spoil the hell out of below the break.
But first, some non-spoilers. One thing I really appreciated is that the Dark Road to Darjeeling takes place at least several months after the third book, which is kind of refreshing. So often each mystery novel in a series happens within a week of the last one that it becomes kind of ridiculous how often the main characters run across murders.
Again, like the first few books, the relationship between the hero and heroine kind of wavered for me. Pretty much scene-by-scene I would go between appreciation and irritation. The relationship is very progressive for the Victorian setting (perhaps anachronistically so), but also very repressive by today’s standards, so when I recalled the Victorian setting, I would be impressed with the relationship, but when I compared it to my own relationship, I would get my feminist self all riled up.
Anyway, this book is set in a remote area of India, and I found the descriptions of the setting and various peripheral characters the most interesting of any of the books in the series so far. And, after the mystery was solved, there was an additional twist that didn’t bother me nearly so much as the mystery solution and which bodes for some interesting characterization in the fifth book.
Alright, so now that the pleasantries are taken care of, I’m going to spoil the entire murder mystery of the book after the break. I actually feel a little hesitant to do this, like I’m breaking a reader’s cardinal rule, but here goes:
One more warning: I am literally giving away the entire end of the book and the solution the mystery, so turn back now!
Okay, so the murderer ends up being a young boy (I would estimate about 12 years old) who carefully and thoughtfully planned the murder because the victim had insulted him and threatened his family. This only comes to light after his father kills his son and himself in penance, and leaves a note confessing everything to the detective.
So, obviously, all the characters are horrified but there is a lengthy discussion about whether the father did the right thing, with the idea being that such a monstrous child would have to be locked up for life, which would be a worse fate than a quick death. Some of the characters balked at this idea initially, but are eventually persuaded that they are only thinking emotionally and not logically. The book ends with everyone shocked by the tragedy but pretty much agreeing that the father made the only available choice if he truly loved his son, attempting to leave the father a fairly sympathetic character for the reader.
Now, I understand that, again, this is Victorian England, which had very different ideas of the criminal mind and little to no services in place for such. But, the book was published two years ago, and this kind of thinking is so appalling that I think it is somewhat immoral to put it in the mouths of protagonists, even if it would have been realistic for the time period.
It also touches upon a current hot-button issue, where in today’s world more juveniles are committing violent crimes and occasionally being tried as adults. I do want to qualify this by saying that I have never been the victim of a violent crime at all, let alone victimized by a juvenile, so perhaps my opinion would change in a real-life scenario, but I feel very strongly that children do not have the capacity to fully understand their crimes, and punishing them as adults is as immoral as doing the same for the mentally deficient.
So, my feeling was that the father had committed a crime far, far worse than his son, and having the protagonists sympathize with his actions left a very bitter taste in my mouth.
I love these books (you know that) and I know I read this book, but not only do I have no memory of the discussion that upsets you, I couldn’t have told you who the killer was if my life depended on it. So, this book didn’t upset me because I apparently retained none of it. I recommend this strategy! Life is smoother when you remember very little about it.
It’s not a bad strategy with mysteries, either; now you can read it again and be entertained just like it was the first time!
I think it’s necessary for the characters to react in an appropriate manner for the time period, but how does the author present it? If it’s written in first person, then that’s one thing, but if it’s written in the third person, then the author has a choice in how she presents it: either agreeing with the characters, disagreeing with them, or remaining neutral. If she’s presenting the situation in such a way that its intended to convince the reader to agree with the characters, too, then I would find that pretty frustrating too. They may be Victorian but we’re not.
The novels are written first-person, with the heroine narrating, so she was the main one convincing the other characters that it was all for the best. It has been a somewhat tricky series for me the whole time; I really like the plot lines and settings, and I really like each of the characters about half the time, but really dislike them the other half of the time.