I shouldn’t have been surprised that a book titled Crimes of the Brothers would be melodramatic. I would even go so far as to call it Gothic, but with better weather. The lovely Mrs. Julien lent this to me after I enjoyed another book she lent, D.L. Carter’s Ridiculous. Poor Miss Catherine Walman suffers through so much one thing after another that I broke into song, “Hey, won’t you play/ another somebody done somebody wrong song/ So please play for me a sad melody/ So sad that it makes everybody cry/ A real hurtin’ song about a love that’s gone wrong/ ’cause I don’t want to cry all alone.”
Miss Walman’s travails are set primarily in England’s Lake District during the Regency Era. She is a spinster who is much abused by her brother and relied upon by her parents to manage their property and income – much reduced by the loss of their French properties during the Revolution. Through improbable luck, she is made the heir to a considerable estate and is able to escape her family, but not her troubles. There is a felonious housekeeper, the titular criminal brothers, a number of pretenders to the estate, illness, murder, blackmail and hidden motives. Catherine is a strong woman, but I found the relentless obstacles, well, relentless. I started wishing that the author had gone full Gothic and made Catherine a less reliable narrator – perhaps more like the governess in Turn of the Screw.
It’s not a bad book*, but instead of driving the story with the tension inherent in an unusual situation, the author has piled on mishaps, overly complicated details, and too many false heirs. I did categorize it as a romance, but it is more like a revenge wish-fulfillment fantasy. This isn’t the good kind of revenge fantasy with blood, swords and horrible deaths, it’s the passive aggressive revenge fantasy where she ends up with money and those who done her wrong are punished or realize they are dependent upon her largesse. I liked Ridiculous very much, but don’t suggest hunting down Crimes of the Brothers.
*Upon reflection, it’s a terrible book. Really terrible. When asked what was the worst book I read this year, I immediately thought of this one.