Lawless and the Flowers of Sin by William Sutton

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Lawless and the Flowers of Sin by William Sutton

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Megan Kenny
Reviewed by Megan Kenny
Summary: Lawless and the Flowers of Sin is something of a rarity in the world of historical fiction, it manages to titillate with tales of bawdy backroom brothels whilst at the same time inspiring in the reader a sense of injustice and outrage at the hypocrisy of the so called war against the Great Social Evil. What becomes apparent is that the trials and tribulations faced by the characters within this book have not abated with time, or with advancements into the modern age. If the point Sutton was trying to make is that the root of the Great Social Evil was, and remains, the unjust use of the poor by the rich to satisfy their own desires then this was made, clearly and with violent grace. Read this book and understand the meaning of vice and virtue in Victorian London but also hear the echo into the present day.
Buy? 'Yes' Borrow? 'Yes'
Pages: 464 Date: July 2016
Publisher: Titan Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1785650116

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Much of this book centres on, as we are accustomed to in tales of Victorian London, dastardly deeds done on a foggy night. Indeed the fog runs thick through this novel, draping the seedy events in a soupy broth of vice. Our hero, Lawless, rather ironically, is that most rare of birds, an honest detective, although as we learn he, himself, is not without his vices. What becomes clear however is that he is something of a social crusader when his eyes are opened to the misery and degradation faced by 'fallen' women. At its heart, the Flowers of Sin is a detective story, with Lawless given an impossible task to complete alongside solving a seemingly impossible crime. Along the way he meets a rag tag bunch of misfits who help, hurt and hinder our hero. There is romance and intrigue along the way as well as a sensational public trial, murder and episodes of mayhem.

It is obvious that a vast amount of research went into this book and it shows in the well drafted scenarios and characters. There are moments of true beauty and by turn, artless violence but neither the sin nor the scandal are overplayed and even the most horrific events are kept under wraps. This is not a book for those lovers of gore; rather the insidious grime of the era, the sheer bone chafing and laborious task of daily living is what permeates the reader's consciousness. The Flowers of Sin is a meditation on the Victorian era and whilst it is an enjoyable, easy to read romp which lovers of historical fiction will surely enjoy, it is also much more than that. It becomes clear that Sutton is a lover of language, as a fellow logophile this made the book all the more enjoyable for me. As Lawless dances with danger, battles with backslang and steeps himself in sin, the evocative quality of the narrative makes it seem as though you are there with him, investigating vice under cover of darkness, fighting for justice and playing chess in some rather unusual places (no spoilers here!). Sutton's use of language also helps create characters that leap off the page, rather than cower behind it. These characters are by degrees graceful and graceless, scintillating and soporific and feel altogether real. This is the real strength of Sutton's Flowers of Sin, by creating characters who speak to the essential humanity in all of us, he has written a novel which entertains but also examines the deeper root of the so-called 'Great Social Evil.

Whilst this book may be set during the 1800's, what permeates this novel, at least for me, is the very real relevance to modern day, particularly with regard to the systematic recruitment and trafficking of vulnerable women, something so prevalent in the media recently. It may be that the parallels one can draw to the present make this less of a dry, historical note to the dusty past and more of a visceral, bloody indictment about the nature of sin and who should be apportioned blame; is it the women so cruelly manipulated and abused who do what they need to do to survive, or the rich and powerful who condone, endorse and even perpetuate this cycle of violence? What Sutton has tapped into is society's inherent vice and how this self-destructive streak has remained vivid right up to the present day. Given that this book is one of a series, I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment to see how Lawless continues to cut a swathe through the muddy heart of London town.

For those interested in further reading about historical crime you might try The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale, a grisly true crime novel, or for more detail about the exciting climate of Victorian England, namely the advances in science which jostled alongside beliefs in the spiritual, try Immortal Longings: F.W.H. Myers and the Victorian Search for Life After Death by Trevor Hamilton.

Buy Lawless and the Flowers of Sin by William Sutton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lawless and the Flowers of Sin by William Sutton at

Buy Lawless and the Flowers of Sin by William Sutton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lawless and the Flowers of Sin by William Sutton at


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