The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of 12 local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes.
A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk.
Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.
Review by Laura
A big, intricate whodunnit, full of 19th century darkness and grime, with a motley cast of characters to boot.
The sheer length of the book (the paperback is almost 6cm thick!) could perhaps put you off, but this pastiche of the Victorian crime novel is as playful as it is compelling.
Something I didn’t realise until reading other reviews of this book was the link with the moon cycles. With absolutely no interference in the story line (given the fact I didn’t notice at the time of reading), the book is structured with mathematical precision.
The chapters decrease in length by exactly 50% each time and the sum of the chapter number and its sections always adds up to 13 (Part 1, 12 sections, Part 2, 11 sections., Part 12, 1 section…). The effect that I did notice while reading was an increasing sense of urgency as the plot reaches its climax.
I loved the atmosphere of danger and underhandedness, and the characters are just as wild as the surroundings. It’s the perfect book to curl up on the sofa with as the nights start to draw in.
And with a soft spot for New Zealand, this book was always going to be a hit for me!