Lawless and the Flowers of Sin by William Sutton
Series: Campbell Lawless #2
Publication: July 12th 2016 by Titan Books
Format: Paperback Pages: 464
A Foundation for Fallen Women. A chess automaton. An impossible theft. Reluctant inspector of vice, Lawless must take a fruitless reckoning of London’s shadowy nether world. Hyposcrisy [sic], double standards: just what we expect from stuffy Victorian society.
But Lawless was not expecting the trail that his questions open up: from the erotic booksellers of Holywell Street down the darkening passageways of Haymarket bordellos to backstreet cast-offs of the high life.
When reputations are at threat, those running the show can be merciless in defending them. – Goodreads
I love the cover design for Lawless and the Flowers of Sin. Whoever’s designing Sutton’s books deserves a lollipop or something because they’re so gorgeous! Lawless and the Flowers of Sin is the second in the Campbell Lawless series but it can definitely be read as a standalone (I haven’t read the first).
There’s something enthralling about a shady nineteenth century London alley, Sutton did a great job of portraying Victorian London. There were a lot of fine details that really made the setting more realistic; I had an ‘ah hah!’ moment when a yellow book was mentioned. The Yellow Book was a very real and notorious periodical in the nineteenth century, so its presence in Lawless and the Flowers of Sin was like the icing on the cake, especially considering the novel’s theme! Sutton even added extra details at the end of the novel explaining what was factual and what wasn’t (you might be surprised).
Inspector Lawless (hilarious choice of name) was a likeable protagonist, an honourable man trying his utmost to do right and to solve the crime(s) at hand. Lawless develops as a character as he discovers more and more about the darker side of London. It’s almost as if his world is turned upside down when reality comes into focus; he realises things in London are not as they seem and the life of sin is more complicated and mind-boggling than he thought. I liked some of the other characters such as Pixie, Skittles and Jeffcoat, but I didn’t get attached to any of them. I thought Sutton was better at writing about the setting and the actual crime than individual characters because I didn’t care for them despite liking them.
The narrative was written in the first-person, which I disliked initially due to the writing style but I eventually got used to it. There were some parts where I thought Sutton’s descriptions and choice of words were rather beautiful and enjoyable to read. However, there were a lot of dips too, the story slowed down a lot and the flowery language got in the way, I usually speed through the slow bits, but I couldn’t do that because the writing style kept forcing me to slow down with the story and to pay attention.
There was a lot of suspense and hardly anything was given away, but I felt like the story was dragging too much halfway through and I lost interest in the investigation. Everything finally picked up near the end and I couldn’t put the novel down for the final 40 pages or so. The ending was unexpected. Although I have serious doubts about the way the ending came about – because it wasn’t believable – it did keep me focused and intrigued.
If you’d like a sense of Sutton’s writing, check out the guest post he did for SugarQuills about avarice here.