Tag Archives: Martha Lea

The Specimen- Martha Lea

Disclaimer:  book was given to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)

The year is 1859. Edward Scales is a businessman, a butterfly collector, a respectable man. He is the man Gwen Carrick fell in love with.

Gwen Carrick first meets Edward Scales on a windswept beach in Cornwall. The spark is instant and the couple begin to forge a future together. Seven years on, Gwen’s world has fallen apart and she finds herself in the docks at the Old Bailey, charged with Edward’s murder.

Could Gwen Carrick really murder the man she loved? From country house drawing rooms to the rainforests of Brazil, The Specimen explores the price one independent young woman might pay for wanting an unorthodox life.

Set in a Victorian world battling between the forces of spiritualism and Darwinism, polite society and the call of clandestine love, Gwen and Edward’s tale is a gripping melodrama, a romance and a murder mystery that will compel readers to its final thrilling page.


I cannot remember the last time it took me this long to get through a book. It’s taken me a while to write this review too, mainly because my overriding reaction was ‘YAY I managed to finish!’

I had fairly good hopes for The Specimen, a bit of a mystery, a bit sciencey, a bit romantic, maybe a little feminist. Sadly I was disappointed. It did have all the elements I expected but not to a satisfying level. To try and order my thoughts I’m going to go through each expectation at a time then add anything I haven’t covered.

Mystery, well, I never really wondered who killed Edward. It was basically old from the beginning as if Gwen was guilty. I wondered why she might have done it, and I think I eventually got an answer, which was, to be honest a bit of a cop out of an answer considering other things which had gone on and could have been built to a motive. I had expected Gwen to be married to Edward at the time as well which took away a large chunk of the drama for me.

The science was probably the best in terms of detail, but it was also the bit I was anticipating the least. I thought the Darwinism issue would be interesting to read about, but there was less of a debate as a general feeling that everyone wanted to prove Darwin right, and even that was brief. I dud however like how involved Gwen was in her biologist role and how interested she was in the creatures.

At first there was a fair bit of romance in the way Edward and Gwen interacted but this seemed to very suddenly just disappear for no reason, and I was waiting for a moment that showed they loved one another. There was a sort of intensity to the times when the ‘love’ was there which made me unsure of how genuine it really was, and how but Gwen and Edward really knew each other.

Actually the only thing I really did like was that Gwen was quite a feminist. She wasn’t to be able to explore the world in the same way that a male scientist would, and she- most of the time- expected to be listened to the same as a man would be. I respected her for that although I didn’t exactly like her the whole time. She was certainly an improvement over Edward, even before they went away I started to loose any reasoning as why she liked him, and it just got worse.

There was a certain element to the book which was hard to follow. The time kept switching and I was often confused as to how the events fitted together. Plus there were a few sections which didn’t seem to fit in with everything at all.


Buy it:

Hardback (£8.96)

Kindle (£7.12)

Other reviews:

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Have I missed your review? Link me in comments and I will add it here.


Filed under Crime, Fiction review, Historical, Mystery