by Amy Myers.
2019, Endeavour Quill, e-book
How about this for an idea: A chimney sweep in Victorian London who solves crimes! Sounds odd at first, but original. Maybe even intriguing. Such is the premise of TOM WASP AND THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS BY Amy Myers.
After thinking about it, the idea has merit. In his job, in spite of his being of a lower class, Tom Wasp, the sweep who is main character in the book, has access to homes of all classes. He knows a a multitude of people from many backgrounds. He sees and hears much that could be useful in a criminal investigation.
No law says a sweep cannot also be smart – even very smart – but Wasp seems curiously erudite. He is familiar with Shakespeare and Richard Tarlton, “king of clowns at the court of Queen Elizabeth” who may have even collaborated with Shakespeare. For all I know, however, all this type of history and literature may have been standard in the Victorian school curriculum?
Much of the plot involves Tarlton. A group of booksellers have regular meetings dedicated to discuss his life and writings. A manuscript that was at least partly written by him is the catalyst for the plot when one of the booksellers is murdered and Phineas, a contemporary fool and friend of Wasp, is the main suspect.
In addition to his academic knowledge, Wasp is on surprisingly good terms with the police (he seems to be on good terms with most people), though it does make his involvement in the investigation more plausible.
The plot moves along well and Wasp is a personable character. The book has the added benefit of illustrating how people learned to accept and navigate the rigid class structure of the time.
So the idea of a chimney sweep detective may seem odd at first but turns out to be at once an entertaining mystery and a glimpse into another place and time.