Title: The Affair of the Porcelain Dog
Series: The Ira Adler Series: Book One
Author: Jess Faraday
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Length: 288 Pages
Category: Historical, Mystery
Rating: 4.5 Stars
At a Glance: Sometimes happy endings are so evident they’re impossible to miss. Sometimes happy endings are so subjective that one hesitates even to call them happy. Sometimes the beauty of an ending, happy or otherwise, is in the eye of the beholder. The Affair of the Porcelain Dog is a wonderful debut novel.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: London 1889.
For Ira Adler, former rent-boy and present plaything of crime lord Cain Goddard, stealing back the statue from Goddard’s blackmailer should have been a doddle. But inside the statue is evidence that could put Goddard away for a long time under the sodomy laws, and everyone’s after it, including Ira’s bitter ex, Dr. Timothy Lazarus. No sooner does Ira have the porcelain dog in his hot little hands, than he loses it to a nimble-fingered prostitute.
As Ira’s search for the dog drags him back to the mean East End streets where he grew up, he discovers secrets about his own past, and about Goddard’s present business dealings, which make him question everything he thought he knew. An old friend turns up dead, and an old enemy proves himself a friend. Goddard is pressing Ira for a commitment, but every new discovery casts doubt on whether Ira can, in good conscience, remain with him.
In the end, Ira must choose between his hard-won life of luxury and standing against a grievous wrong.
Review: Drug trafficking, human trafficking, blackmail, betrayal, duplicity, moral ambiguity, prostitution, and murder: all things you might expect to find in the Whitechapel district around the time Jack the Ripper took the life of his final victim, Mary Kelly, then seemed to disappear from the face of the earth. They’re also things that take place within the pages of The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, the wonderful debut novel by Jess Faraday.
Cain Goddard saved Ira Adler from the streets of ‘Chapel, where Ira had been selling his body in order to survive. Goddard is the Henry Higgins to Ira’s Eliza in this story, as Cain brings Ira into his home and teaches the young man to read, write, and speak like a proper gentleman, hiring Ira as his “personal secretary”, though their relationship is far from the socially acceptable front they’re forced to portray to a world where anything more could find them both imprisoned (or worse) for gross indecency.
Cain Goddard lives a dual existence as both a rogue and a scholar, once an esteemed teacher at Cambridge University, but sent down in a scandal for which he’s now being blackmailed. Since Goddard is unable to fulfill the one passion, he immerses himself fully in the other role, becoming the infamous Duke of Dorset Street, a hated and feared criminal whose questionable ethics and rationalizations make him a fully intriguing character, and a man with whom Ira struggles and, ultimately, fails to delineate his own moral boundaries. When one allies himself with the criminal element, one has to expect that those alliances will be dubious, and that’s a lesson both men learn.
Mystery and suspense are de rigueur in this race to acquire a statue which is the key to thwarting a blackmailer, but the race turns deadly when Ira discovers that innocent children are being trafficked and that the man he realizes he’s come to love is a party to discounting the moral implications of it. It’s then that Ira realizes he may not be able to change the world, but he certainly can try to protect the future, one child at a time.
Sometimes happy endings are so evident they’re impossible to miss. Sometimes happy endings are so subjective that one hesitates even to call them happy. Sometimes the beauty of an ending, happy or otherwise, is in the eye of the beholder. The Affair of the Porcelain Dog is so much less than a happily ever after and so much more than just a simple ending. Other than one small personal niggle near the end that felt a little bit too God-in-the-machine for me to find entirely plausible, this book was just about as perfect as it could be.
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