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The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve - Review

Thursday, June 15, 2023


I bought this book in the LGBTQ+ book shop in York, The Portal, when I visited a few weeks ago with my friend Jac. I was intrigued because it's historical crime fiction starring a trans man, which isn't something that you see very often. I will use the words 'trans man' even though they're not used in the book because that is how we would understand Leo these days, but in 1888 when the book is set he may not have had those words to describe himself. But he is a trans man. 

So, yes, Leo is a trans man, "hiding" his secret self which is that he grew up as Charlotte, daughter of a middle class vicar. He left home when he was fifteen, unable to survive that life anymore, and has ended up in London. He works as an assistant to the hospital pathologist; he sews up dead bodies after the post mortems have been done. He doesn't like his boss but it's a pretty good job. He rents a room above a pharmacy, living with the pharmacist Alfie and his daughter, Constance. Constance really likes Leo and if she beats him at a game he promises to take her out for a treat. 

Leo visits a brothel every Wednesday evening and spends some time with Maria, buying her affections. She knows the truth about him and does seem fond of him too. He asks her to go with him to the theatre one Saturday afternoon and he's excited about it, but Maria never turns up. But then Maria turns up on the slab at the hospital, murdered by someone, and Leo is distraught. Then he gets arrested for the crime, and is terrified that the police will find out the truth about his body and will arrest him for deviancy, and his life will be over. But then someone else intervenes and Leo is let go... but why? And by whom? And who really did kill Maria? And is it linked to the death of Jack Flowers, who turned up dead in the hospital just a few days before Maria? Leo has to do a lot of digging to get to the truth.

I had previously read that this was the first book in a series starring Leo, so that did intrigue me. However, on the basis of this one, I wouldn't rush to read anymore. It's really slow in places and seems quite bogged down by detail at times. There's a lot of characters and as Leo doesn't know their names it's hard to keep them straight. The book is incredibly violent in parts and there is a brutal rape scene, which I did understand the inclusion of but it was hard to read. In all I'm giving this three out five as I felt it dragged a lot. 

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