Book Review: Lucy Lied by M.J. Daspit (2014)

December 5th, 2014 12:19 pm by Kelly Garbato

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Goodreads’ First Reads program.)

Set in the late 1870s, Lucy Lied is about a young woman who, through a series of misfortunes, ends up the slave/common-law-wife of a beet farmer in the dusty Spanish missionary town of Monterey, California. When Flynn Talbot turns up dead in his bedroom, brains bashed in, Sheriff Taylor immediately focuses his “investigation” on the Chinese immigrants and laborers who exist on the margins of Monterey society. At the suggestion of Doctor “Doc” Jason Garrett – who’s purposefully misrepresented the evidence to further his own agenda – Taylor zeroes in on “Chinaman Joe,” a giant of a man who travels through town, collecting discarded items and reselling them to make a living. But when Joe’s defense attorney produces the missing Lucy Strang Talbot – and with her, an alternate theory of the crime – the town’s attention turns to the mute redhead.

Or at least I think it does? I DNF’ed at 33%, several days after Lucy’s testimony at the trial. The fate of Joe had yet to be announced and, after a quick skim through the rest of the book, I couldn’t seem to find another mention of him, or any subsequent trial – though I could be wildly mistaken.

For whatever reason, the story failed to hold my attention. Historical fiction can be rather hit or miss with me, and I guess this one was just a miss. While I was intrigued by the titular Lucy, I found the presence of multiple additional protagonists distracting. Glimpses of Lucy’s life come infrequently, as the story shifts between one character and the next. For long stretches, nothing much seems to happen, even though there exist multiple sub-plots. I found the writing a little dry and sometimes confusing, though this could be at least partially attributed to the old timey vernacular.

Trigger warning for violence against women, as well as historically accurate racism, sexism, homophobia, and associated language. Some of this – such as Doc’s quaintly sexist postulations as to the cause of Lucy’s muteness

(e.g., “Physical manifestation of a mental weakness. It’s often the case in women. The womb and its functions drain vital force from the brain, which, as it happens, is smaller than in the male, so less able from the start.”; “The uterus and ovaries, being connected to the other organs by a network of nerves, were involved in most of women’s complaints. Further, many of these complaints were brought on by masturbation, the root cause of unhealthy excitement of the sex organs. He was hopeful that he might discover if a predisposition to this secret sin was evident in the shape of Lucy’s skull.”)

– I actually found rather amusing in a satirical, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me kind of way.

(This review is also available on Library Thing and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)


Comments (May contain spoilers!)

Diversity: “Chinaman Joe” is initially blamed for Flynn Talbot’s murder. The Chinese immigrant workers in town are frequently treated with suspicion and hostility. Very little diversity among the main characters (though I DNF’ed at 33%).


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One Response to “Book Review: Lucy Lied by M.J. Daspit (2014)”

  1. 2014 Real Book Challenge: November Roundup » vegan daemon Says:

    […] was also a children’s book in the mix (Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart) as well as one DNF (Lucy Lied), neither of which I included since it feels a little too much like cheating. Seeing as I’ve […]

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