I’ve had this book on my shelf for an embarrassingly long time (like… I winced when I went to amazon to link the book and it reminded me when I purchased it…), but it just never made its way into my (admittedly eclectic and oftentimes spur-of-the-moment) circulation until recently. No time like the present, as they say!
Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.
She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London.
And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control.
“I worried about you, Thea. I worried for your very life. You were such a beautiful creature, and to be struck down in such a way, to be tormented…”
“Yes, of course.”
“…horrible to witness…”
“I am sure.”
“…I only wished to help you…”
“…in some small way.”
The Half Killed is the story of Dorothea Hawes, who is a young woman living in Victorian London. Dorothea is a Spiritualist, or a medium, and for many years in her youth, until more recently, she had acquired a bit of fame doing it on stage. But having her abilities isn’t all glitz and glamour, and especially nearer to the end of her career, she had quite a bad time of things, and ended up in hospital for a while, and since her release, she’s become somewhat of a recluse.
One day she is visited by Julian Chissick, a former priest who has followed her career for a number of years and is convinced that she is the only person who can help him find out who killed a young woman he knew. Dorothea agrees to help him (reluctantly), and shenanigans are had.
This book was very well written. The prose was absolutely lovely, and I found myself picking it up and reading for hours without realizing how much time was really passing. Those books are the best books, right? I was expecting this one to be fairly dark, but this one got *dark* at times. More than I anticipated. Not in a bad way though. In an… atmospheric way. Dorothea has quite a few symptoms due to her abilities, and it usually seems to manifest as headaches, weakness, and nausea. But it has also been a drain on her mental health, as well as physical. These things were described very well, and so I almost found myself with a sympathetic headache of my own at times. More than that, this book takes place during a drought and heatwave so bad that people are starting to assume that it’s the beginning of the end times. As such, everyone is sweaty (and heavily overdressed, because Victorian England) and it was so realistically laid out that I could almost say I was right there with them. Except it’s winter here. It was close though. I had to take my sweater off there for a bit!
This wasn’t a monsters and blood and gore sort of horror, but it was definitely a mysterious entity doing murders that are mysterious and very unusual type of horror, and I thought that with the historical setting, it worked very well for me. It was spooky, in exactly the right ways. I liked Dorothea, and Chissick, and even though this wasn’t at all a romance, there were still elements that made me want them to just… end up together. Did that happen? Well, better read and find out.
I really liked The Half Killed. It was short, dark, and enthralling and while it wasn’t fast-paced but more of a slow-building, character-driven story, two light evening’s reading left me wanting to explore more that Quenby Olson has to offer. 4.5/5 stars!~