… It’s got such a long title, I decided that would be the name of the review! The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve is an interesting, dark and modern Gothic tale set in the Victorian era, which sounds highly contradictory. It is modern in one glaring way: the main character is transgender. I mostly enjoyed this novel, despite its weak start as Reeve did manage to shock me multiple times, which I relish in.
The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve is set in Victorian London, told from the point of view of transgender man, Leo Stanhope. Leo is very much a man on the inside, however cannot become one on the outside, so must pay for sex from prostitutes so as to keep his secret. When the woman he has been seeing weekly for years turns up dead on his mortuary table, his life spirals out of control as he tries to solve the murder mystery, uphold justice, all while trying to hide his female body. TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains scenes which include rape, suicide attempts, human trafficking and descriptions of abortion.
What I liked about this book
Alex Reeve has created a brilliant murder mystery; the dead prostitute alongside a drowned man who all seem to be tied to the dark underground world of Victorian London, when human trafficking was done via sea freight with drugged women being shipped via coffin to their destination. I liked the creation of the world, and the similarities I could see with today’s world. Reeve wove into his narrative the attitudes of male society by presenting them in the extreme way they would have been in that era. Leo is a mostly likeable character, and Reeve certainly knows how to create characters. I liked that he was given a powerful backstory, and didn’t deny certain female traits that were hormonally a part of him given the circumstances.
My favourite character, however, was Rosie Flowers. I thought that she was the strongest character in this novel, and maintained her place as the real hero. Her heroic scene was thankfully not her peak moment, and she became more and more fearless as time went on. I was surprised at how much I liked her given her willingness to support Leo, but this made her a good friend and someone to be admired, as she protected him massively. I liked the number of strong female characters in this novel, and their representation certainly stood out to me as one of the key elements of the book.
On the other hand…
This is not a totally glowing review, shockingly enough. As mentioned previously, I thought that Reeve started the narrative on a weak note, with Leo coming across as being a man who happened to be transgender, but still had the natural traits of a man, which could come across as problematic to some readers. This is remedied fairly early on, but did give me pause to begin with. He is also incredibly frustratingly dim, especially at the beginning. His total faith that a prostitute loved him when she had other customers she saw just as regularly boggled my mind, and I felt that the way he just threw his life in the air and let it crash down around him following her death to be highly unlikeable. I just could not relate to his logic.
I also did not appreciate the representation of men, aside from Leo, in this novel. They are ALL corrupt or abusive in one way or another, which bothered me because #notallmen. But seriously, could Reeve not have allowed Leo one male friend who understood him and did not hurt or betray him in any way? The comradery he started out with quickly whittled away and was replaced with strange quasi-female friendships, where it felt like he was questioning who he was occasionally. I think that he should have been given an equal measurement of male and female friendships so the reader could have seen his different sides.
Overall, I enjoyed the narrative of this book a lot. As stated, I did find issues with some of the character representation and the content, but it is very well-written and the female characters are fairly fantastic. I would recommend this to anyone who likes dark, Gothic tales, Victorian literature and doesn’t mind some squeamish content. The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve is out now from Bloomsbury Raven!