book review

“The Finish: The Progress of a Murder Uncovered” by Angela Elliott

Rating: An okay book!


It is 1769 and these are violent times. London’s Covent Garden has long been a centre of hedonistic pleasure with its whores and harridans, aristocrats and artisans, actors, drunks and thieves. Prostitute, Kitty Ives, takes a man to her bed and wakes to find him dead. Fearing the gallows, so begins Kitty’s quest to uncover the identity of the murderer.

The Finish is the first in the Venus Squared series, comprising four books: The Finish, The Surety, The Debt, and The Trade. The story exposes the violent and sexual underbelly of the 18th century and challenges our preconceived ideas of historical fiction.


Let me say first that I am glad I read this book.

Ironically, it came together at the finish. The journey there, however, was a bit tedious.

I love period dramas and mystery novels, so I was very much looking forward to reading this. It’s not an easy, light read by any means, both because of the writing style and the content. I mean this in the best way. I felt like I was reading a classic Sherlock Holmes novel, and the mystery unraveled at exactly the right pace. I was kept guessing until the very last page, and by the end I had considered every suspect but the one who actually did the deed!

There is nothing I love more in a mystery novel than being successfully duped.

I was also a fan of the historical accuracy. Historic places, characters, and events (like a 1769 fire in Covent Garden) all make an appearance, and it’s all very believable. Elliot seamlessly wove what life was truly like in 18th century London—from piss pots to the new wonder of electricity—with the story.

I’m very glad for the glossary in the beginning. I feel like Susie Dent would have a ball with all the contemporary language. Perhaps my favorite thing about the story is that Elliott doesn’t ask us to like anyone. All the characters are a hot mess, and it’s perfect.

However, it was hard to sift through all of the details and inner dialogue to find the story. I’m also not one to judge a book solely on typos and grammatical errors, but there were SO many. I hope the author didn’t hire a professional editor because it doesn’t read like she did. But she probably should have.

We’ve got errors like:

  • “She promised me riches beyond measure I was young and foolish.”
  • “He relaxed my grip hoist my petticoats.”
  • “It ‘Tis true.”
  • “I it.”

The instance that I found most frustrating was during one of the most important revelations in the story: “I cannot fathom why you did ask his birth name.” It should have been “I cannot fathom why you did not ask his birth name” and the omission caused the whole scene to fall flat.

I will tell you that for the first three-quarters of the book I was skeptical. There was some redundancy (we get it; Mother Shadbolt likes money); there was a lot of detail (and run-on sentences); I’m also not sure I find the reason that (MINOR SPOILER ALERT) the main character married Craddock entirely believable.

However, by the end, I was hooked.

I didn’t think I was going to recommend this book, but I do. Give it a read. Don’t expect perfection, but it was well worth it in the end.

Favorite Lines:

  • “He was an evil man pretending to occasional kindness.”
  • “Oh, but the flames licked sensuously over the coals.”
  • “I was pleased to be reminded that all was not entirely paving stones, cobbles, and excrement.”
  • “Needs must when the Devil drives.”
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Nitpicks and Random Thoughts:

(These are notes that did not affect my enjoyment of the story, but I wrote them down anyway.)

  • The formatting was odd. I’ve never seen chapter headings and titles aligned to the left in normal print, and in a few spots the chapter begins in the middle of the page. That was probably a printing error, and I did get used to the formatting after the first few chapters.
  • The spelling of Madam Geneva changes in one spot.

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