Craven Street by E.J. Stevens is a dark, paranormal thriller set in Victorian England where demons prowl the darkened streets of Whitechapel and all that stands between them and humanity are a team of women investigators that comprise the Whitechapel Paranormal Society.
Demons walk among us, unbeknownst to most of the human population. The Special Paranormal Research Branch of the police force was established to protect the people of England from the evils that lurk in the dark. Cora Drummond leads a highly successful all-female unit in the force that are derisively labeled by their male counterparts as the Whitechapel Paranormal Society. Claiming the moniker as a source of pride, and in defiance of its intended misogyny, the talented group of women have solved many a sinister case.
However, paranormal activity has been steadily increasing in the city of late. Spectral appearances and mass possessions are keeping the SPRB rather occupied. But when a body is found, mutilated with arcane symbols etched deeply into her skin and bones, Cora and her team fear the stakes have become dreadfully higher. Their concerns are confirmed when the demon Forneus, appears to help them solve a case that is becoming more gruesome and horrifying with each new discovery. While not opposed to nefarious and demonic plans in general, even Forneus is apprehensive of the evil plot brewing and its mastermind.
Pressed into an unlikely alliance, the women of the Whitechapel Paranormal Society join forces with the shadows of the night to uncover a plot so sinister even the Grandmaster of Hell is trying to thwart its culmination. Something sinister is afoot and they are running out of time to stop it.
I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading other works by Stevens, however she states that some of the characters in this novel are drawn from her Whitechapel Paranormal Society Victorian horror series and Ivy Granger Psychic Detective urban fantasy series.
Forneous is the Grand Marquis of Hell and is the perfect example of the sleek, dapper, witty and mysterious demon character archetype. It is an archetype that I am rather fond of and while he doesn’t have a lot of page time, I enjoyed the macabre humour and insight his character provides in the story.
Cora works for a secret branch of the British police that monitors and investigates paranormal threats to the citizens of England. She is the leader of a team of strong women who must not only stand against paranormal threats, but also stand up to misogyny as they defy the conventional roles expected of them in Victorian society. The team dynamic is wonderful, although I feel we only scratch the surface in this novella. There is also a budding romance between Cora and Flan, that will hopefully be further developed in subsequent books in the series.
The Writing Style
The story is very fast paced, squeezing quite a bit into its limited length. The majority of the tale is told from the perspective of Cora with intermittent chapters told from the demon Forneus’ view which nicely provides additional insight into the events that are unfolding. I also thoroughly enjoyed the overall ambiance of the tale. Stevens does a great job pulling you into the narrative with vivid descriptions of an eerie and haunted Victorian cityscape.
I love it when I can read a book and feel completely immersed in the world the author has created. Stevens accomplishes some fabulous world building in the limited length of this novella. The macabre atmosphere, with its combination of mystery and the paranormal held me spellbound.
I think because this is a novella, there wasn’t sufficient time for really deep character development. There is so much more I would love to know about Cora and the other women in her unit, especially the bourgeoning relationship between her and Flan. I hope this evolves more in future novels in the series.
I also should note that there are instances where the mutilated bodies of women are discovered. There is not a significant amount of gory details provided, however some readers could find the images depicted disturbing.
If you are in the market for a fast-paced, paranormal mystery with strong women that is set in Victorian England (and really, who isn’t?) then this book is definitely for you. I look forward to reading the other books in the series.
Excerpt from Craven Street by E.J. Stevens
I squinted at the address from the evening’s dispatch, struggling to decipher the building number in the eternal darkness of Thrawl Street. Like most of the East End, gas lamps here were few and far between, leaving Whitechapel’s residents and visitors stumbling in a quagmire of fog, smoke, and shadow.
The conditions were rife for the wicked dealings of man and inhuman beast alike, though my finer dress and reputation for charitable good works, both mundane and supernatural, had seen me safely through many nocturnal ramblings. Not that I took my safety for granted. Being set upon by thieves was but one possibility.
In recent weeks, we’d seen an uptick in natterings about spectral activity and more than one credible case of demonic possession. Something had agitated the city’s spectral citizens and underworld denizens alike. The presence of demons was particularly vexing and, though the dispatch indicated a possible ghost sighting, id be a fool to assume that the night held only the threat of a simple banishing ritual.
My eyes scanned the narrow street, flicking to the intersection of Brick Lane to the east and the barely discernable crossroads with George Street to the west. The street was barely wide enough for two women to walk abreast, a feature that added to my unease. It would be far too easy to become trapped here between these deteriorating buildings. Their moldy brick and stone facades, gangrenous in the half-light, the last thing I’d see before the curtain of death fell.
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Whitechapel Paranormal Society
Craven Street (Whitechapel Paranormal Society, #0.5)
Eeper Weeper (Whitechapel Paranormal Society, #1)
One for Sorrow (Whitechapel Paranormal Society, #2)
Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 9781946046369
Publisher: Sacred Oaks Press
E.J. Stevens Online
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