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Viaduct is a podcast hosted by Paul CW Beatty. It will be published monthly at http://viaduct.buzzsprout.com/ All new editions will include monthly historical reviews of related books of related books in the areas of science fiction, fantasy, and
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My first introduction to historical fiction was via the Classics, especially Charles Dickens in my first year of high school. I appreciate that those authors were writing about their current time period rather than modern historical fiction authors relying on research to capture life in previous centuries, but Dickens opened up a whole new world to me. Learning about the industrial revolution in history then reading Dickens accounts of the same societal changes through his characters fuelled my enthusiasm to learn about our heritage. Picking up Paul C.W. Beatty’s Circles of Deceit allowed me to experience that enthusiasm all over again.
I’m always a little nervous when I read a book that’s not the first in its series in case I don’t engage with the characters, or I don’t understand what’s happened previously. I needn’t have worried in this case, as the story can definitely be read as a standalone. I connected with Josiah Ainscough within the first few pages as his bravery and modesty shone through. Ainscough’s strong moral compass causes him to struggle with the path he has to follow in order to prevent further violence and keep those he cares for safe.
The cast of characters, even the minor ones, all had their parts to play in the story and were woven into a vibrant tapestry of class divide, oppression, greed and revenge. I often found myself losing track of time as I read and could almost hear the hubbub of anxious workers during industrial disputes. The story moves swiftly along as anger and uncertainty boil over into violent clashes and fear, sweeping me along with it as Ainscough struggles to keep his dual lives apart.
Beatty presents the harsh conditions of the mill workers amongst the explosive political backdrop, truly bringing that period of history to life for me again. As the characters discussed the Chartist movement and changes, they hoped to see, I remembered learning a tiny bit about them at school and wished I could have read Circles of Deceit to help me understand more about their manifesto and struggles rather than skimming through a couple of paragraphs in a history textbook.
I’ve been bowled over by the detail and research in this book and am giving this a strong 4 / 5 stars.
Books and Wine Gums
Circles of Deceit is the second in the Josiah Ainscough Casebook series and, like the first novel, Children of Fire, is a brilliantly imagined visit to Nineteenth century Northern England, a period rich in drama and social change. This time, the backdrop is the General Strike of 1842 and the struggles of the Chartist movement. Constable Ainscough is caught up in an attempted assassination of the Chartist Leader Fergus O’Connor and comes to the attention of the Manchester police force, an organisation still very much in its infancy. Ainscough is gaining a reputation for fairness and integrity, and as I’d hoped when I read Beatty’s first novel, is back for another case.
This time, Ainscough is pitted against The Sneaker, a shadowy figure with an excellent aim. The reader is allowed an insight into the increasingly febrile mind of Ainscough’s opponent; it becomes clear that events are fuelling the wider political unrest – the Peterloo Massacre is still uppermost in the public consciousness – and that the woman Ainscough is falling in love with is also vulnerable to harm.
This, as with Children of Fire, feels meticulously researched. Beatty has an ear for dialogue – one of my favourite scenes is the ‘Committee of Public Safety’ meeting in which a millowner negotiates for a hiatus in a strike with a group of underground revolutionaries – and a fine eye for nuance and detail. Together with the tense plotting, this makes for a fascinating read.
This was a really good, historical political thriller. I got really into it partly because I’d studied the period of history and found the Chartists really fascinating and ahead of their time, and partly because it’s so well written and compelling. Set in the 1840s, some years after Peterloo, during a time of strikes and upheaval, when the working-class Chartists were requesting decent wages, the vote and other eminently understandable things to a 21st Century reader, but the government and factory owners of the day often vehemently disagreed with these requests. Constable Josiah Ainscough becomes involved with the movement, one he has sympathies for, after thwarting an assassin at a meeting. He then goes undercover and discovers a plot that goes all the way to the top. He also falls in love and that makes it personal. Using his clever wits and nose for a conspiracy he keeps digging, hunting for the mysterious assassin and their master. Highly enjoyable even if politics (of any period) leaves you cold, although I enjoyed that element too.
Rosie Reads and Wine
My Thoughts: Besides being an interesting and entertaining mystery, here are a few specifics I enjoyed about the book.
1. I learned something-This book taught me about the Chartist movement and even though the author did a great job explaining the Chartists, I still spent time researching the movement and the Anti-Corn Law League and why they didn’t see eye to eye.
2. Dianne Burrell (Union organizer)- to have a strong female in the mid Victoria era, where the main role for women was marriage, makes for a great addition to the plot.
3. Short and named chapters-I like that these chapters were in bite-sized chunks and that they were named. Both make for easier reading for me. After reading this one, I will definitely go back and read the first Josiah Ainscough book.
March 1842. Constable Josiah Ainscough, a policeman in Stockport, was orphaned and raised by a Methodist minister and his wife. Together with another family they visit Manchester’s Hall of Science where the famous Chartist speaker Feargus O’Connor is appearing. However his father gets the wrong night and they have to flee pretty sharpish when the Anti-Corn Law League start attacking the chartists. Josiah stays behind and together with three gentlemen he dubs “the three musketeers” they assist the lovely Dianne Burrell to protect the terrified children from the fighting. Dianne is the daughter of well known chartist Phillip Burrell although a prominent activist in her own right too.
O’Connor is set upon on stage and by chasing his attacker, Josiah suddenly finds himself assisting Manchester's Inspector Fidel and his special band of policemen called the Chosen Men. Fidel believes that O’Connor was selected as an alternative target to either one of the Burrells, and that a man nicknamed The Sneaker is killing activists, maybe on the orders of a higher power, in order to ferment violence and unrest amongst the workers.
Josiah’s commander Prestbury places him on suspension and Fidel jumps at the chance of offering him a transfer. Josiah wants to stay loyal to Stockport but agrees to going undercover as a clerk at the mill where Dianne works to protect her. He befriends her and even accompanies her to a turnout (strike) rally where he meets her father and his good friend Fred Sowerby.
When Fred’s body is pulled from the Mersey miles from home it surely can’t be an accident. Soon afterwards Josiah himself is ambushed by someone who seems to believe the constable knows more than he does. When Dianne and her father disappear and the marches start up from the Staffordshire mines, it looks like a move towards a general strike might be gathering momentum and Josiah finds himself enlisted in the Manchester Chosen Men and is set on the trail of The Sneaker. Dangerous times lie ahead for everyone involved as a struggle against oppression, poverty, harsh working conditions and class distinction ensues.
One small criticism I have is that the reader is expected to have a decent knowledge of this period of time, for example to understand what the Corn Laws and Home Rule were and what they meant for the working classes. Those who are unfamiliar will want to stop and find out exactly what everyone is arguing about.
The author clearly knows their history and the plot is interesting, but the honest and morally decent Josiah was the only character whose personality I felt I actually got to know a little bit. There were some strands such as the Rosemary and Ned side stories that appeared superfluous to the plot and felt a bit unresolved by the end of the book.
Dealing mainly with the crucial issues of the time, this is definitely one for fans of historical fiction, especially the early Victorians and the Industrial Revolution. For me personally there wasn’t enough murder mystery and intrigue but it certainly improved my knowledge of some of the events that shaped our heritage.
Zoe’s Book Nook
Rating 4 *
Oh boy was I in for a treat, as soon as I opened the first page I was hooked, the characters and the story just grips you and never lets you go. This was one I knew would suit me, my favourite genre is historical crime fiction and especially ones set in Victorian England (doesn’t have to be in England either but that’s the most common books I have tended to read). I love how it brings the lower middle classes and the workers as well as the down and outers to full blown life and that most cities around Britain were more full of life than we think. With some books only looking at the high society, which don’t usually condescend down to the normal everyday person maybe apart from their estate, this book shines a dark, gloomy and grimy life to the people that are usually forgotten or ignored throughout history.
We see that during this early period of Victoria’s reign a lot of new ideas, and new thinking were shaping how people lived and worked. Some were troublesome and made a lot lives worse off then before, others tried to do good but due to lack of encouragement or even due to people wanting to take what they can get some failed. This was a time of social divides, riots and a lot of poverty. I loved how the book delves into this strata and you get to see the rougher sides of life that most books don’t really look into.
I also loved the descriptions of where its set, in northern England and how it at once feels familiar yet not, this was during the time when most northern cities were alive with the sounds of the industrial revolution and the boom in the mining, factories of manufacturing of steel and iron where as now these cities and towns are silent and the voices of the past have become just a ghostly outline in the ruins of the buildings and abandoned outlines in the landscape of what was once such a hive of industrious living.
For me I love historical fiction, and of course historical crime fiction, because it takes us back into the past and we can almost visualise what their lives would have been like without having to leave the comfort of our own room, its almost like we can reach out a little to the past and touch it. I know that we really don’t know much and probably never will know in depth about much of the dark past, but with the Victorian era being so close ( I say close but closer than say medieval era) to us that the majority of buildings that were built by them are still around, it doesn’t take us that long to close our eyes and envisage a time of horse drawn carts, the sound of wheels on cobbles and hawkers in the street.
The characters all dance around each other in this game of cat and mouse between the constable Josiah Ainscough and his enemy the ‘assassin’, I did love the idea of this sort of moral and fire preaching chartist being protected by this constable to keep the peace and an assassin out to cause bloodshed and violence. I loved the romance that seems to be burgeoning between two of the characters, it just felt so real.
The only qualm I have with this story is that the ending was a bit loosely tied, I also wasn’t convinced by the relationship that had been developing it felt a bit too stuttery. But I loved the whole crime/mystery of the story and how it all came together at the end. This novel has definitely got some similar connotations to Edward Marston’s The Railway Detective series in that they both try to shine a light on different aspects of and backgrounds of the characters’ lives. Definitely a book to snuggle up with in a blanket.
Jera’s Jamboree www.jerasjamboree.co.uk 4/5*
Circles of Deceit is the second story of Constable Josiah Ainscough. I enjoyed Children of Fire and looked forward to reading this historical murder mystery.
Set between 1842 and 1843, a political turbulent time during Queen Victoria’s reign. With constant strikes, political meetings, activists and radicalism this story shares great historical detail.
Josiah stops an assassination of a chartist leader but discovers danger, conspiracy and murder during his duty.
I found it interesting to discover the pillaging of the bread from the workhouse actually took place and after the seriousness of the political issues, I really enjoyed the letters to Cynthia from Rosemary. Her letters represented a need for love and her youthful feelings of men.
A fascinating historical murder mystery.
Jessica Belmont jessicabelmont.wordpress.com
Circles of Deceit by Paul CW Beatty is a historical crime fiction set in Victorian England. I feel like this author nailed the time period. I felt transported into this novel between the setting descriptions and the characters. Historical fiction is always impressive to me because of the amount of research and authenticity that goes in. The ending fell a little for me because it was a little loose. However, given this is a series, I can see development further on. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel though. I enjoyed the characters. They felt authentic in this setting. The murder mystery is very well done. I enjoyed following the characters. Overall, this was a great read. If you’re a fan of historical crime fiction, check this out.
Amy’s Booklet List https://amysbooketlist.com/ 4*
Circles of Deceit takes place during a particularly interesting time in English history. During the Victorian Era, a lot of change took place in England, especially within the working class and the aristocracy.
It’s actually the perfect setting for a political thriller, so I am surprised that this is my first chance to read one.
I loved the pace of the book and the main character, Josiah Ainscough. Due to his undercover mission, and his budding romantic relationships, we really get to know him. I genuinely enjoyed going through his investigation with him and was invested in his ability to solve the case.
The politics are an interesting touch to what could have been a run of the mill mystery novel.
Not a fan of… I didn’t give Circles of Deceit 5 stars simply because I wanted more fullness to the book. Seemed a little too focused and thorough at times when it came to research. At these times the story got a little lost in the shuffle.
Recommended For… Historical fiction lovers will want to jump on this as well as any political thriller fans.
Victoria Wilks Writes
I have to admit, although the description for this book caught my interest instantly, I did feel somewhat apprehensive knowing it was the second book in a series, only as I worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the plot. I discovered quickly that I needn’t have worried as this story can just as easily be read as a standalone.
I found the character Josiah Ainscough co incredibly likeable, and after the first couple of pages I already felt a connection with him and what he stands for. He is brave, yet incredibly modest and this makes him all the more endearing. Josiah certainly has to face up to the consequences of his morals, as he has difficult decisions to make along the way in order to keep the people who he cares about safe.
All of the characters that we meet within this book all play their own roles in how the story itself progresses. Their own individual stories and circumstances are all intertwined, and really highlights the various struggles that people of varying class had to face, and the ways in which this impacted their lives as the story unfolds.
The story is perfectly paced and kept me fascinated from start to finish. As the uncertainty of the times and the anger people feel comes to its climax, violence soon takes hold. This is when Josiah faces his biggest struggle yet as he fights to keep the two separate sides of his life apart.
The Author does an incredible job of bringing the story itself and the characters within it to life for the reader. He details the unthinkable conditions of the mill workers, along with the turbulent tides of politics. The historical side pf this story was highlighted beautifully and truly gave me an insight into how it must have been living throughout those times.
A fascinating, detailed story that grasped my attention from start to end.
Jennifer C Wilson Historical Fiction with Spirit
In Circles of Deceit, we are delving into the casebook of Constable Josiah Ainscough again, in the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign, and during dangerous times, as works threaten strikes, mill and other industrial owners see threats to their wealth, and far too many innocent people are caught up in the (often literal) crossfire. In the heart of this, Josiah turns into an accidental hero, having been in the right place at the right time, or the wrong place at the wrong time, as it turns out for him, and for some of those close to him.
We are transported between towns, and classes, from dark and dingy taverns with back-room tribunals, to high-class living rooms and courtrooms, all described in wonderful detail. And of course, at the heart of it all, two mysteries: who is the dangerous ‘Sneaker’ who made the first assassination attempt, who has killed one of Josiah’s friends, and really, the third – how does it all tie together with the Chartist movement, if it does at all?
Other than a brief mention during the ‘Victoria’ television series, I don’t know a lot about the Chartist movement, but I found the way the information was presented in the book wasn’t onerous, and didn’t interrupt the flow of the story, always a worry when there are important things like political movements to try and describe! I found myself racing through the pages, and again, was completely ‘got’ by the reveal at the end. Definitely recommended!
As well as being a book geek, I am also a history nerd so you can imagine my reaction to reading the synopsis of ‘Circles Of Deceit’. I just knew that I would have to read the book as soon as I possibly could. So as is customary in my house, I grabbed a cup of tea, grabbed my Kindle and settle down for what proved to be a fabulous read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Circles Of Deceit’ but more about that in a bit. It took me a couple of chapters to get into this book but when I got into it, I certainly got into it. From then on, reading ‘Circles Of Deceit’ became an addiction.
It was as if the book had developed a hold over me and it was a hold that I wasn’t willing to break. I would pick the book up only intending to read a couple of chapters but I would become so wrapped up in the story that I would still be sat there reading over half a dozen chapters later. I was intrigued by the story and I liked the main character of Josiah Ainscough, so I had to keep reading to see if Josiah Ainscough managed to solve the crime or was there going to be a twist in the tale. The pages turned increasingly quickly as I worked my way through the story. All too quickly I reached the end of the story and I had to say farewell to Josiah. I soon cheered up when I realised that I had the first book in the series to catch up with.
‘Circles Of Deceit’ is well written. The author has one of those writing styles that is easy to get used to and easy to get along with. Paul grabbed my attention from the start and drew me into the compelling story. In Josiah Ainscough, Paul has created a character, who is both intriguing and easy to take to. The story is written using language more typical of the Victorian era, which took a little while to get used to but I ended up really enjoying it. I felt as though I was part of the story and that’s all down to Paul’s very vivid and realistic storytelling.
In short I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Circles Of Deceit’ and I would definitely recommend this book to other readers. I will certainly be reading more of Paul’s work in the future.
The Rosie Synopsis Josiah Ainscough is back. It’s 1842 and the Chartists are trying their hardest to get signatures on the second charter of rights petition. There’s rumblings of discontent in the mines and the mills, and things are getting a helping hand from a corrupt politician bent on glory and a cavalry officer desperate top relive Peterloo. And a French assassin.
Josiah is drawn into the fray when he saves the life of two Chartist leaders, Fergus O’Connor and Diane Burrell at a lecture that becomes a riot. The Manchester Police are very impressed, even if Mr Prestbury of Stockport isn’t. Given the job of guarding Diane, Josiah goes to work as a clerk at a mill. The pair become friends, but as the General Strike heats up Josiah has to balance his duty to protect Diane with his duties as a police officer.
Soon information comes to light that uncovers a conspiracy, a murder and the threads of history weave together, linking the General Strike with the Peterloo Massacre of 1818.
Meanwhile, Rosemary Hopgood, the daughter of friends of his parent’s, lakes a shine to Josiah but doesn’t get anywhere. Her eyes then light on Josiah’s colleague Ned. Things do not turn out well, and Rosemary is left in a very sticky situation.
The Good I enjoy these novels; they’re set during a fascinating time in history. The Industrial Revolution is well underway, the Revolutions in France and America are history, but within living memory, there’s a sense that anything could happen, times could change, and people really tried hard to change things for the better.
If only they’d succeeded.
As now, then. Those with money and power didn’t want to lose the money or the power, and they used force, lies, and twisted law to keep things as they were. This novel is really good at illustrating the events of the General Strike of 1841/42, the atmosphere in industrial towns, the fears of the masters and the men (and women), the powerful rhetoric of those fighting for change, while highlighting the seedier side of the times.
The action is well-paced, the relationships develop well and I found the inclusion of letters a really helpful way of showing the passing of time and the different attitudes people have to events. Rosemary is a particularly interesting character – she believes herself a metropolitan sophisticate because she spent time in London, much above Stockport’s provincial society, and yet is trapped by a chancer. Her letters are funny because she really doesn’t develop much insight into her own actions or the people around her until disaster strikes. Her ending is left untold, just as the endings for the Chartists emigrating to America or those imprisoned are left untold. We must wait and see, and hope for the best for them all.
I found the relationship between Josiah and Diane very touching, since they are technically on opposite sides of the law, but they are friends and they’re both really hurt when Josiah is forced to betray Diane and her father. Their reconciliation, once all things are made clear, brings them a resolution.
I guessed the assassin was a woman, just from the way she wrote the sections on her experiences at Waterloo. I enjoyed the link back to Peterloo too, with the bugle and the resolution to young Millie’s murder.
None of the characters are perfectly good or perfectly evil. Not all the workers are honest nor all the masters monsters, not caricatures but portraits of complex people in a complex situation.
The Not-So-Good I got scared part way through that I wouldn’t finish. Not because of any fault with the novel, the writing is excellent. but I have an irrational anger about the way people are and were treated by those with power and I had a feeling the good people who were fighting for change were going to get screwed over. Luckily, I needed to know what happened next and Diane’s Amazons raiding the workhouse to hand out bread to the poor was enough to drag me back, and the court case was not the all out slaughter it could have been. There were a lot of corrupt judgements based on ideology back then, lots of people imprisoned or transported because they asked for a fair wage. Makes me angry just thinking about the injustice.
The Verdict Thoroughly enjoyable early-Victorian crime novel, excellent pacing, historical details and characterisation. Highly recommended.
Annarella Rating: 5*
I am happy I joined this blogtour because I discovered a new interesting historical mystery series and a new to me author.
This is a gripping, informative and highly entertaining story that kept me hooked and made me travel in time.
I loved the vivid and well researched historical background. Even if I didn’t know a lot about that specific historical time I learned a lot and I want to learn more about it.
The descriptions are realistic and vivid, you cannot help feeling sad for how terrible the life of the poor was.
Josiah Ainscough is a likable, well written and interesting character. I liked him and I found the rest of the characters fleshed out and well written. The mystery is solid and it kept me guessing till the end.
want to read the other books in this series as I found this one fascinating. Strongly recommended.
Much as I enjoy historical fiction, with or without crime, the time period this book is set in is one that I’m not very familiar with and it was very interesting to explore it and learn more.
There is crime in this book. There are riots, murder, an assassin and a few other crimes, but what ties these all together is the people in the story, their lives and how those lives are affected by their work and those who control their working conditions. I’ve visited a few places that used to be working mills so I’m aware of the poor conditions in which most people were working at that time. The story brings that to life really well with descriptions of the noise and the general disregard in which these workers were held. What it also adds to my knowledge is the general strike of 1842 and the Chartists and the reforms they wanted to see, among other things.
It was really fascinating to spend time in this period and see it from the viewpoint of Josiah who, being a policeman, is slightly separate from the plight of the mill and factory workers who are having their wages cut and being badly treated. We follow him as he negotiates these uncertain times and investigates those trying to kill the Chartist leader, but also tries to reconcile his job with what he is witnessing. Josiah is a good character, an ordinary person trying to do the right thing and protect the people he cares about.
If you fancy something historical that shines a light on the working people, rather than the well-off then this is a good book to consider.
This is the second book in the series but can easily be read as a stand-alone and after this adventure it will be interesting to see what Josiah encounters next.
The second novel from the Josiah Ainscough casebook is a revealing historical novel of troubled times in the north of England in the 1840s, seen from the point of view of a young man who is involved in keeping the peace. Although not the first book which features Josiah, this book stands alone in terms of virtually all of the characters and setting. This is a fast-paced book which tells some of the stories of the movements calling for reform in workers’ conditions. Not that it is a dry story; those fighting for the Chartist and other causes are given identities and back stories, and Josiah becomes involved in not only the police action to identify their activities, but also finds some sympathy with their cause. Josiah is involved with the newly formed police force in Stockport, but an unfortunate incident means that he is put on very different duties. This is not a long book, but the story it contains is detailed on the strikes or “turn outs” and some of the disturbances both fictional and real are vividly described. The links between people and places, events and disturbances are brought out in this well paced story. The character of Josiah’s particular friend Dianne, his need for full discovery, and much more keep this story as a real page turner, full of twists as not everyone is acting in the best interests of justice. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
The book begins with meetings in which support for the Chartist cause is being solicited from various people. The authorities are nervous of any upheaval in the mills and mines of the north of England- the Peterloo protest was within living memory, and apart from the economic loss represented by strikes and other industrial action, the revolutionary events of France was a source of genuine fear. As different factions clash and the authorities strive to keep control. Josiah finds himself in the midst of a battle in a meeting room, trying to protect some children and then a celebrity rebel. In the process he encounters the amazing Dianne and discovers that her involvement is not a one off, but part of a long-term programme to actively protest against the poor pay and conditions experienced by workers. Josiah discovers something of a conspiracy exists, and there is a real danger to those he knows and admires. Experiencing attacks and difficulties, he moves around the area and meets many people of different conditions. With codes and dangers to deal with, Josiah must concentrate all his efforts to make a difference. The mills and other areas are well described, including some places that still exist.
I found that this book was really compelling and kept me turning the pages as I was keen to find out what happens to Josiah and those he knows to a greater or lesser extent. I also enjoyed the side stories, at least one of which had much to say about the vulnerability of women which is still recognisable today. The character of Dianne is a real revelation, being a vivid character, full of independent thought and determination. I enjoyed the story of Josiah, intelligent understanding of what is really going on, doing the right thing even if that is not always the easiest path. This book is far less mystical than the previous adventure, and the historical research is impressive though never slows the action. I recommend this to those who enjoy some social historical fiction, with the elements of a thriller and murder mystery featuring a memorable set of characters.
My Fictional Oasis
I’ve been wanting to read more historical fiction. Most of what I’ve read has been World War II romance, so I’ve been keeping an eye out for anything that’s from a different point in history. When I received the email from Rachel’s Random Resources, I was immediately drawn in by the cover, then the synopsis. This was definitely one of the most interesting historical fiction novels I’ve read, and I loved that romance wasn’t the main focus. I also really liked Paul’s writing style, as it was informative and entertaining.
It took me a few chapters to properly get into this one, but once I was invested, I couldn’t put it down. I was a bit lost at times, as I barely know anything about the time period, but I did learn a few interesting things. It was pretty informative, so even if you don’t know much, you still may really enjoy the book. I would say that if you have any knowledge of the era, you’ll absolutely enjoy the book a bit more than if you go into it blindly.
I really liked the characters and the development. This is the second book in the Josiah Ainscough mysteries, but you still get a pretty decent understanding of Josiah. I personally would like to read this again after reading the first book, just to see if there’s more to Josiah than shown in this book, but it isn’t necessary.
There’s a second storyline about Rosemary and Ned, which was interesting, but I’m still not entirely sure what it was supposed to add to the story. I actually really liked the ending of the main plotline, and if Paul ends up writing another book, I’ll absolutely be getting it as soon as I can.
"I would like to say that your suffering will be the last called for from workers seeking justice and proper returns for their labour, but the fact is everywhere I look I see storm clouds. There will be more, not fewer, disputes like yours in the future, and they will be across many industries, unless trade and attitudes buck up. The only comfort I can see is that, when that time comes, you will already have made your contribution and may avoid more hardship."
Circles of Deceit by Paul CW Beatty is a Victorian murder mystery set during the times of the Industrial Revolution and addresses some of the crucial economic and social issues of the time - radicalism, poverty, riots, and violence on both sides of the conflicts.
This is the second book in the Josiah Ainscough historical murder mysteries, which portrays the conflicts between the working class and the capitalist classes. While it might help to understand the background of the main protagonist if you start with the first book, Circles of Deceit reads perfectly well as a standalone. We first meet Josiah Ainscough in Children of Fire, and learn that he has been brought up in the family of the Methodist Minister. He is a member of the Stockport Police Force. Intelligent and observant, Josiah makes a good detective. In the second book we watch him becoming more mature, and also more aware of the injustices of the society and the grievances of the working people. His loyalties are being changed by new circumstances.
Of late Constable Josiah Ainscough finds his duties exhausting. "There had been more petty crime, more domestic violence, and more trade disputes. The worst thing was the number of people beaten up for being, or not being, Chartists, League-men, Irish, or some other section of the community".
Invited by his guardian to attend a talk by Feargus O'Connor, the famous Chartist leader, at the Hall of Science in Manchester, his company and he find themselves in the middle of a mêlée between the Chartists and supporters of the Anti-Corn Law League. The fighting is vicious, and Josiah helps prevent the murder of the speaker.
As it transpires later, there is a professional assassin abroad, whom the police nickname the Sneaker, and he is showing interest in killing radicals in crowds.
Josiah is given a task to keep an eye on Dianne Burrell, a prominent Chartist who might be a target on that account. She is a union organiser of women weavers and works at the women-only mill. The police want Josiah to protect Dianne in case she's on the assassin's list. Josiah admires Dianne's determination and strength of conviction. He cannot help himself falling for her, and also finding sympathy for her cause. He is concerned that he might be an incongruous protector. "If Dianne was the assassin's target, then he hoped he was equal to the task of protecting her".
Their relationship is complicated, as at first, being in disguise, Josiah cannot reveal his true identity. He is torn between being a lover and a deceiver. Going out with Dianne, his loyalties would inevitably have to change. "No longer would he be the unbiased upholder of law and justice for all and every person in the community... he would be counted as an activist in the grievances of the working people, as Dianne was herself... He didn't know where he would stand when he had to make that choice".
Things are getting even more complicated, as he himself is being targeted by the ruthless killer, for whom murder is joy, a thing of beauty and symmetry. "My soul sang and my heart lifted. Ignorance defeated, stupidity massacred, terror sown on the wings of destruction. Nothing of all that I know is better than this, to kill without responsibility".
Will Josiah be able to apprehend the assassin, and protect Dianne and her father? Will he get to the bottom of the conspiracy?
The historical background is meticulously researched. You learn a lot about the 1840s England, especially the turbulent period of 1842-43, when the Chartists urged the Parliament to adopt their great petitions. It also shows that history repeats itself, the government is as ineffective, and the politicians are playing dirty games.
Circles of Deceit is a well-woven story, told with a great wealth of detail.
Beyond the Books
‘Circles of Deceit’ by Paul CW Beatty is the second story from the Josiah Ainscough casebook and is a historical novel from the perspective of a young man in the North of England in the 1940s. A book that is perfectly fine to read as a standalone due to this story having its’ own setting and characters, there is Josiah that is the constant.
Josiah is part of the new Police force in Stockport and finds his duties include attempting to discover what activities the movement calling for the reform of workers rights (the Chartists) are getting up to. While he does this he finds himself beginning to sympathise with them also. As the story unfolds he finds himself involved in a very unfortunate incident, culminating in him being posted to duties that are very different to the ones he was on. Josiah finds himself in such a place that he discovers a conspiracy and realises people he cares about are in danger. He experiences attacks and all difficulties when attempting to journey around the areas meeting a lot of different people from varying walks of life. There is danger and codes that he has to handle as he tries his best to make even a small difference.
A really interesting read, and all the characters are created well with their backstories and identities which adds certain depths to the book. The events throughout the story (of which some are fiction while some are historical) are brought to life with the vividness of the writing. I enjoyed the descriptions of the mills, and other places as I am from Oldham myself, maybe my ancestors were a part of this unruly (according to the bosses and police) group. Also, I find this history really interesting as I studied the Chartist Movement in History and, as a local find it quite a personal part of my history.
This is a story that blends social historical fiction with suspense and a murder mystery too. A book that gets you hooked and has you turning the pages to see what will happen to Josiah and those he cares for. I found it a compelling read and the research that has gone into this story alone is stupendous and well done. Never a dull moment and full of interesting facts.
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