MAN'S STORM by Keith Heller


Email this review


Prequel to Man's Illegal Life (1985), this is a London crime novel set in 1703, about 20 years earlier than the first volume. As before, historian Heller features George Man, a parish watchman who is something of a policeman-detective for a heart-heavy, urinous London district. Strongly indebted to Daniel Defoe's you-are-there journalism for its textural detail, the novel is a set-piece of description given life by a colossal storm that blows ships high and dry from their anchorages, rips off slate roofs and, with apocalyptic force, collapses over 2,000 chimneys, levels trees and endangers life. The wife of an ironmonger on the row where George Man lives is found with her head battered in by a shovel. This is George's ""case,"" and we follow his investigation (he himself has just been beaten by a wandering gang the night before), which, though sloppy, turns up the murderer. The reader, however, is more interested in Heller's phenomenal (if partly thanks to Defoe) descriptive powers than in his plot. One is plunged into daily depression and howling, greasy streets as glutinous as a nightmare. Crucially, the dead wife turns out to have been a former whore, and George investigates the Cock and Bull bagnio where she once worked, a house rendered by Heller with all the immediacy of the reader's armpits. Meanwhile, the Storm rages like the later Plague that Defoe also delighted in re-creating. Best bathtub book of the season.

Pub Date: Dec. 8th, 1986
ISBN: 0747256845
Publisher: Scribners