The Last Pleasure Garden
The Last Pleasure Garden of the book’s title is Cremorne Gardens, a Victorian version of the notorious Vauxhall Gardens of Regency infamy. All sorts of things happen in the Gardens, including a madman who is cutting locks from young women’s hair and slashing dresses, using a frighteningly large pair of scissors.
Inspector Webb has to catch the man and finds there is far more involved than a simple lunatic at large. Dead bodies, murder and baby farming, past passions and present revenge tangle together in a mix he has difficulty unravelling. For Jackson fans this will be a pleasure to read, especially as the author’s Victorian London is tangible.
However, I do have a couple of quibbles. I had been looking forward to reading this book. It is the third in a series about Decimus Webb of Scotland Yard, and I’d heard much praise for the series. The first book was short-listed for the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award, and Lee Jackson knows his Victorian London well enough to have written an excellent non-fiction book about it. But this book (and I believe the other two also) is written in the present tense by an omniscient author. Readers are never close enough to a character to form that reader’s bond which makes me willing to turn the pages and see what happens next. It makes, for me, a rather passionless book which, as the plot revolves around revenge and rekindling old passions, I found difficult reading. And I personally found it hard to accept that Rose Perfitt, a 17-year-old, well-brought-up daughter of a gentleman, would have had so much unsupervised freedom.