You know how with some books it’s hard to pinpoint why it worked so well for you or didn’t work at all? Dark Economy is not one of those books. It has strong pros and equally strong cons.
It starts off as a wonderful debut, and I found myself taking a curious peek at the author’s page to confirm that this is indeed her first work. The writing is witty and effortless, but above all: so enthusiastic! The fun the author had writing an early 19th century mystery about British medical student and part-time grave robber Cadell Meredith, is palpable.
What’s great too, is that you can tell that she did her research: Latin names are thrown around smartly during the MC’s pathological adventures, and the lightly touched upon debate about the ethics of medical professionals practicing their surgical skills on the deceased (and sometimes turning to stealing dead bodies out of necessity), adds a nice touch.
The same debate sparks the cat-and-mouse game between Cadell and cop Breton, who suspects Cadell of robbing graves. This is one of the things that excited me most about the blurb. I love me a story in which the two MCs attempt to outsmart each other and the hunter becomes the hunted! And its execution is promising at first: Cadell outsmarting the ‘hard to read’ cop with his ‘cold smiles’ made me smile. However, they have far, far too little page time together!
Sadly, this brings me to the cons of Dark Economy. The author focuses completely on her mystery, and appears to lose sight of the M/M factor completely. Although their occasional snarky dialogue is wonderful, there is little that points toward a romantic connection or even just chemistry between the MCs.
At times Cadell lusts after Breton for a bit, but only when the men actually share a scene. He doesn’t spare him any thought when he’s busy amateur sleuthing (which is about 90% of the time). To me, these ‘horny daydreaming’ moments feel like they were added as an afterthought in a conscious attempt to create chemistry between the MCs. Something similar happens when the as ‘unreadable’ presented Breton throws Cadell on beds or against walls in sudden bouts of frustration. But most of all, in obvious attempts to force psychical interaction between the two.
On top of that, their already unconvincing pairing is sabotaged by the introduction of another potential love interest? Dude!
Taking this into account, I need to point out what I know will be a deal breaker for some: this is one of those books in which the breeches don’t come off until the 98% mark. And here the author cuts off about the only scene that shouldn’t have been cut short...
Because for me the ultimate con of this book isn’t the lack of great M/M dynamics - although that disappoints – it is its length. The mystery meanders on for 250 whopping pages without real highlights or breathers. Since this is not a whodunit, as a reader you have no choice but to tag along for the ride, at some point not being able to keep track of the names and possible culprits anymore. Since you are not actively involved in solving the crime either, chances are that at some point you’ll find yourself not caring which 'random name' turns out to be the culprit.
Dark Economy is therefore not a book that - despite the lovely writing, plot concept and gorgeous cover - I can easily and instantly rec to a whole bunch of peeps. Perhaps it's a good bet for historical lovers who are kind of fed up with MCs fucking up their mystery with their penises?