Lucky me I've discovered another new-to-me historical fiction novelist. Reading, It's like a wonderfully bottomless pit of delights. They keep cranking them out and I get to keep reading them. This latest find is Lempiere's Dictionary by Lawrence Norfolk.
In 18th century London, John Lempiere, is furiously researching and writing his dictionary of classical mythology. He is sure that the publication of his definitive study will challenge scholars and make his fortune. His father's brutal murder has made obtaining financial security overwhelmingly important. Papa's death has also brought to light an intriguing and terrifying connection between his family and the all powerful Dutch East India Company. Might John actually be entitled to half of that monopoly's money? Decades old murders, greed, the Dutch East India and the recent deaths of acquaintances in ways that mirror the mythology John is studying are interfering with John's publishing plans. Should he abandon his work and investigate his claim despite the dangers or should he retreat to the safety of silence?
Author Lawrence Norfolk has applied his research on the period (everything from preparing a pen to dog training) to good use. The sights, smells and mindsets of the time engulf you. The light he shines on the 1700's illuminates an irresistible story. The Byzantine plot and rapid introduction of ideas and varied characters demand your complete attention. This is a novel that you commit to, it's not the book to leave in the car and read catch as catch can but if you have the time to dedicate to Lempiere's Dictionary your efforts will be rewarded with well written historical speculation, fact, mythology and conspiracies galore.
When Lempiere's Dictionary was first published in 1991 it was Lawrence Norfolk's debut novel and it won the Somerset Maugham Award that year. He was since written two other novels: The Pope's Rhinoceros and In The Shape of the Boar--both of which I have added to my acquire list and look forward to reading.