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Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of The Devil's Mask. May 27, Chris rated it it was ok Shelves: fiction , mystery. Bristol was the port that John Cabot sailed from to discover Newfoundland, and was the point of embarcation for the heroes of Gulliver's Travels and Treasure Island. It was also a key port in the slave trade, profiting for over a hundred years, until , promoted by the Society of Merchant Venturers.

It is a city I know well, having lived there for the best part of half a century, and so I was looking forward to reading this novel set there in , a year after the opening of the Floating Harbour and a yea Bristol was the port that John Cabot sailed from to discover Newfoundland, and was the point of embarcation for the heroes of Gulliver's Travels and Treasure Island.

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It is a city I know well, having lived there for the best part of half a century, and so I was looking forward to reading this novel set there in , a year after the opening of the Floating Harbour and a year before the Prince of Wales became Regent following George III's madness. The Devil's Mask certainly makes good use of Georgian Bristol as a backdrop to this tale of commercial shenanigans and casual inhumanity. The streets, the variety of buildings merchant houses, coffee houses, speculative property developments and the muddy and silted river Avon flowing through the city are all based on either real or typical topographical locations and to a large extent the novel captures the mix of genteel living and rank poverty that typified ports such as Bristol.

However, The Devils' Mask doesn't convey a sense of geography to readers unfamiliar with the city, and, at the least, a map of Bristol and the road between Bristol and Bath should have been included; without it I wouldn't blame anyone for becoming both lost and discouraged from further exploration. The elements of the narrative are quickly and graphically introduced: the narrator Inigo Bright a lawyer with artistic leanings, just like the author himself is somehow different from this father and brothers; he is charged with getting to the root of discrepancies in the activities of the Bristol-based Western Trading Company; he keeps being warned off further investigations, not least by being attacked and imprisoned; he encounters a series of shocking murders, all associated with his investigations of a suspicious trading vessel; he finally discovers the truth which, surprise, surprise, involves his family with slavery and the aftermath of its abolition.

Running through the first-person narrative is a parallel tale of young West African women holed up, first in a slaver, then in an underground place of confinement. The final denouement only confirms what we knew from the opening pages, and so is no real mystery; the only mystery is why the young lawyer took so long to work out the obvious.

This was a promising proposition, a novel exploring the ramifications of Bristol's involvement in the slave trade appearing not long after the th anniversary of slavery's abolition in most of the British Empire. Sadly, The Devil's Mask doesn't live up to this promise. There is a catalogue of failings which weaken the impact of this historical detective fiction. First is the narrator, who is a weak and vacillating character much given to introspection but apparently caring very little about anybody or anything; as a result the reader scarcely cares about him.

Second is the pace of the action: incidents lasting a few seconds are described in loving but lengthy detail, while descriptions that would give us a sense of place and time are skimped. Third, the descriptive passages are often inordinately convoluted, with pretentious word-painting of sunlight reflecting or not reflecting on water and apparently significant musings on seagulls. On top of that, dialogue and vocabulary were largely in modern English, heightening my sense of historical incongruity; this was not aided by the otherwise attractive book cover, based on a Victorian photograph of a half century or more later, showing the hazy outlines of St Mary Redcliffe actually not mentioned in the novel behind a ship's riggings and a young man, whom we are meant to identify as the hirsute hero, in midth century clothing.

In short, this tale required very heavy editing, if not re-writing, pre-publication. It could have been an enjoyable and a real page-turner, but as it stands only a sense of duty could persuade this reviewer to complete it. It is a shame, as I really wanted to like this novel. Nov 04, Evelyn Hughes rated it it was amazing. I enjoyed this! Overlooking what others have commented on, not changing clothes and the coffee house! Nov 04, Sorcha rated it liked it Shelves: er , Will assume it's an Uncorrected Proof when reviewing, though this has not been explicitly stated.


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Byatt - zzzzzzzzz. Anyway gave up on that book yesterday in favour of this, and I'm glad I did.

The Devil's Mask

Starting with chapter 1, I initially thought it had forwarded onto a 21st Century setting - the main character descending into his favourite coffee shop and being served ahead of the irregulars who were already there. It wasn't until later in the chapter that you realised the story was set not long after the abolition of slavery. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that during the whole story you dont actually know what year it's set in.

The transportation of slaves in tight, cramped conditions was covered in The Devil's Mask but was less confrontational - the focussing on woman was a suitable touch. I think there's one mention of changing a shirt but no shoes or trousers ; One quip about his hair after walking in rain; however, no other changes of clothes, no "Inigo, what's with the thick ear? At all. And considering the lack of other description of either Inigo or any other major character, the multiple reference to Inigo's hair did begin to grate after a while[return][return]Overall, I enjoyed it, it was well written and suitably paced May 19, Jules Jones rated it really liked it Shelves: trade , paperback , fiction , historical , mystery , bristol , slave , abolition , lter.

Inigo Bright comes from a wealthy mercantile family, but has gone into law rather than shipping.


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Newly qualified, he still works for the man he was legal clerk to, on one of the practice's major sources of income -- the nitpicking investigation on behalf of the port officials of customs fees owed and paid. What seems like a routine investigation of one ship's petty smuggling gives Inigo a minor problem with torn loyalties, because his family's business has some investment in the ship. And it seems to be linked with the murdered women who have been found in the city.

Inigo does the sensible thing and tries to put his information before the authorities, but finds a suspicious lack of interest. If the truth is to be brought to light, he'll have to do the digging. The mystery's good, but the book's structure gives away a lot of the solution just a little too soon for my taste if approaching it purely as a mystery. The reverse side of this is that Wakling has done an excellent job of laying out the clues and leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions about not just the solution to the mystery, but the society Inigo lives in.

I'm partial to world-building via long, lingering descriptions when done well, as it is here, and found the book to have a good balance between plot and evoking a sense of place.

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The one criticism I'd have was that several characters seemed to start off as being intended to be significant players in the tale, and then more or less fizzled out. Inigo himself is an appealing character. He's young and uncertain of himself, but has the strength of character to make difficult choices once he's thought them through.

At book's end I was satisfied with the closure given, but wanted to know what happened to him next, which is always a good sign. Feb 08, Margaret rated it liked it. I relished my journey to Bristol in the days immediately following the abolition of slavery. I picked my way through filthy, stinking streets in the company of narrator Inigo Bright.

More Books by Christopher Wakling

Its splendid terraces for the wealthy are currently being erected, but that doesn't mean that the city isn't choked in corruption and vice. Inigo is a young, bored lawyer who's mainly engaged in checking and verifying documents. Until one set of documents plunges him into dangerous territory, though he hardly, at fi I relished my journey to Bristol in the days immediately following the abolition of slavery. Until one set of documents plunges him into dangerous territory, though he hardly, at first, knows where this will lead him. I found the actual story a little confusing at times, especially towards the end.

But as a way of approaching an understanding of the city of Bristol, in the aftermath of the slaving industry, it's worth a read. Mar 01, Janette Fleming rated it really liked it. Faber Blurb Meet Inigo Bright. He's a bored young lawyer working in Bristol after the abolition of the slave trade. A frustrated artist, at odds with his wealthy merchant family, and engaged to a girl he no longer loves, Inigo's dissatisfaction is complete when his boss and mentor, Adam Carthy, charges him with the numbing task of reconciling years of port fees and import duties for the newly formed Dock Company.

But detail is the devil's mask. Inigo's routine investigation leads him to The Belsize, a ship newly returned from the Indies, laden with rum, sugar, tobacco, and a chilling secret. Those in the city whose interests the secret protects move swiftly and savagely to keep the truth hidden at all costs. Before long Inigo, his boss and family, are implicated and under threat. A cover-up seems the only way out.

But Inigo has linked the case to a charred corpse found on a building site in the rising district of Clifton and soon there are other bodies to account for, too. Likable main character and excellent sense of time and place 19th century Bristol with all its disparity. For almost all that time, he has been refining his skills in creating and restoring masks. With his creations, Timm Buckley is carrying on an ancient tradition while also introducing modern and innovative ideas into his work — a mixture that has brought him considerable success.

This is the name given to the elaborately masked groups who, at nightfall, move from house to house making a joyful noise in order to banish the winter demons. Elaborate extras require even more time.

The Devil's Mask - Oslo Literary Agency

In recent years, the interest in the old customs has noticeably increased. They immerse themselves in the old myths and marvel at the scary figures with their shaggy fur, long horns and clanging bells. And they marvel too at the realistic carved masks of Timm Buckley , which send a shudder down the spine. Total distance: km. Florian Weidlich goes back to the roots of the Bavarian art of goldsmithing and designs elaborate pieces of jewellery featuring typical motifs from his native land.

Michael Thalhammer "tattoos" traditionally produced Lederhosen, making each one uniquely individual. Manja Wolf-Voit brings a sense of swing to Bavarian cooking. In the Gasthaus Schellenberg she wants to win the hearts of local people with her vegetarian and vegan dishes. Christian Loferer is a horn player with the Bavarian State Opera, and lets the soul of Bavaria flow into his music. Franconia is renowned for its good wine.