I WAS SENT A FREE COPY OF THIS BOOK FROM THE PUBLISHERS IN EXCHANGE FOR A FAIR REVIEW
‘Max bit his knuckle, aware of the gloved hanged hanging above his head. It disappeared momentarily before returning to linger once more.’
Set in the murky backstage world of late Victorian theatreland, The Industry of Human Happiness is about the obsessive characters who dreamed of bringing recorded music to the masses.
Max and his younger cousin Rusty have a vision of launching the gramophone industry from a Covent Garden basement. But a renowned opera singer is brutally murdered in his hotel bed and they are thrust into the underworld of opium dens, brothels and extortion.
Ghosts from the past and a contested inheritance turn the cousins against each other, and they go head-to-head to launch rival talking machines. With Max’s sweetheart, the ambitious singer Delilah Green, caught in the middle, the pair battle rival manufacturers, London theatre owners and, ultimately, each other, for their very futures.
What I thought:
I loved the fact that the industry in question is music and the recording of it. I’d never thought of music like that but it is definitely an industry that brings happiness. It is hard to deny that the creation of gramophones would have been one that brought plenty of people happiness and excitement in the ability to have music in their own homes. Now people can carry days worth of music in their pocket and don’t think much of it. But I remember being excited to have a CD player for the first time and saving up for about a year to buy myself an ipod. It’s not something I think of very often but it would have been an industry to bring people happiness, this was ground breaking technology. And the description of the gramophones vs the phonograph and how they work is really well done. You can see the passion that Max has for the gramophone and how he rates it above the phonograph due to the quality of the music, as well as his passion for music in general. Max is desperate to not just record and sell music but to record high quality music from all cultures and bring the world to peoples houses. He’s not going for quantity and the general public but he is going for quality and can be a bit of a snob about it. As far as he’s concerned his ‘pearls’ will sell because people will be able to tell it is the best of music. He scorns his cousin Rusty’s idea of going for the masses and recording tavern and folk music. In comparison to Max, Rusty doesn’t care about the music at all. That’s not where his passion lies and he could hardly care less about how the songs sound or how ‘high cultured’ they are. For him it’s all about the technology and the engineering. Rusty’s view is all about the bottom line and how much money they can make, why travel the world to record something that no one knows when you could just pull someone off the street and record them instead? The two cousin’s different points of view on how the industry works causes a nice friction between them.
I found Part 1 quite slow moving but that was because a lot of it was character and world building. Personally I feel like less world building is needed. But that is probably because I have a strong understanding of Victorian London due to the British education system constantly teaching it and the BBC regularly doing period dramas. The character building is really good though and with the murder happening at the end of part 1 the whole thing starts speeding up. I worked out who the murderer was about ¾ of the way through although I wasn’t certain. (End of part 4). I didn’t enjoy having to put the bookmark back in and go back to the office at that point, it had completely sped up and the different plotlines were coming together and I had to stop. WHY? (well I know why but the timing still sucks. Just as I’m busy putting the pieces together my alarm goes off to tell me to leave the park and go back to work.) Extra side note; for the record getting out of the office and lying down and reading is the best way to spend lunch. I get plenty of time to return to the world of my book and escape from work. It allows me to de-stress and means that when I return to work it feels like a fresh start. Days spent inside in canteen when it’s raining is not the same and doesn’t feel like I have a real break.
The murder itself is a really gruesome and ritualistic one, gramophone needles through the voice box of a singer before they are killed. Urgh. Yet also, how cool is that? When Max found the body it was described in enough depth to make me go ‘ooh’ and also ‘urgh that’s really note nice’. And those are the best kind of deaths, make me interested but make me recoil in horror as much as the characters do. I really enjoyed the fact that the murder is only one of the plotlines and the different parts all wrap together nicely. The murder is one of the main plotlines but it’s also a side one for a lot of it. The murder happens and Max has his suspicions about who it is but the police have their own opinion and it’s up to them to find out what’s happened. Max and Rusty’s lives and their business have to continue even though. They don’t have the time or the energy to spend putting into trying to solve a crime (especially because Max is sure that he knows anyway). I enjoy a good thriller/crime novel but it was nice to read something that acknowledges that as much as murder is bad life still continues. Death doesn’t cause anyone else’s world to stop, unless they are family of the deceased and even then they have to go through the grief process and keep living. It sucks that this happened and Max found the body but he need to keep recording because otherwise he has no money so he has to focus on finding the next one of his pearls.
Why I read it:
I was sent a free copy in exchange for my review. I was a bit nervous to start this because I knew nothing outside of the synopsis going into it and I very rarely read a book knowing so little.
I went into this book with slight trepidation as I didn’t know anything about it. But book post is great and makes me happy, especially because I’ve enjoyed the other two books that Lightening Publishing has sent me. This one was another great book that is widely different to what I would normally read. The characters of Max and Rusty and really interesting as although they are cousins, best friends, and work together they are very different people with different goals. As much as Max wants/needs to make money his passion is in the music, whilst Rusty cares about the technology. This is a great period piece and delves into a part of the music industry that I had never previously thought of before. Historical fiction is not normally my thing but a good book will always keep me hooked and have me coming back for more. I haven’t looked to see if James Hall has any other books but if he does I will seriously consider buying them.
Would I recommend: Yes. It’s a really good period piece and murder mystery while having other plotlines. I’m planning on lending my copy to Nanny as she is an ex-English teacher and I think she’ll enjoy the intricate plot and the period setting.
Popsugar: Borrowed/given as a gift, published in 2018
It’s honestly pure coincidence that I’ve got two historical novels in a row. Especially as both times I’ve said it’s not my genre. But this review got bumped in return for the book and the previous two were swapped over as I had left ‘My Name is Victoria’ on my memory stick at work.
Same as always please let me know what you think of my review and if you are planning on reading it.
P.S. My next review is for a collection of short stories called ‘Because you love to hate me’