Sounds exciting, right? And definitely right up my alley! I was very excited to finally (and belatedly- sorry, Sourcebooks!) jump into this story. Unfortunately, I don't think it was nearly as exciting as it could have been.
I admit I haven't read too many of Henry James' books, but The Turn of the Screw is one I read several years ago and still serves to give me a deliciously creepy shiver up and down my back when I think of it. James was a master of the unreliable narrator and wrote amazingly well. In this book, he was portrayed as an insecure, fat alcoholic who just wanted the approval of his elder brother. It's possible that Henry James did feel insecure and maybe he was an alcoholic and quite possibly he wanted his older brother to like him. But there was also keen insight, wittiness and a very real kind of genius in him and I don't think Cohen brought that out at all. Nor does she allow us to see Henry's neuroses develop. She tells us flat out exactly what Henry thinks. For example:
He had achieved a modicum of success with his novels, and he had a profile of sorts in society. But William had always treated him dismissively, had viewed his life as frivolous, and had denigrated his writing, if only by failing to read it. These things pained Henry deeply, though he pretended not to care. For more even than social acclaim and fortune, more even than literary immortality, he desired the good opinion of his older brother.Really, I think this point would have been much better made through less obvious methods, allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about what must have been a very complex relationship between the two brothers. And Cohen gives Alice and William the same treatment- we are told exactly what they think and feel in this heavy-handed manner and do not get the opportunity to draw our own conclusions.
And if that is how the story is just for character development, then I think you can guess that the murder mystery also proceeds at a somewhat clunky manner. In many ways, I found the mystery investigation more interesting. I liked the way the new and budding fields of psychology and photography were used. But in general, this story did not grip me at all in the way one would expect a Victorian era novel featuring a family of famous siblings investigating one of history's most infamous serial killers to do.
Note: I received this book for free to review.