“Elementary, my dear Professor Hatton….”

The Devil's Ribbon - DE Meredith

The Devil's Ribbon - DE Meredith

What is it about Hatton and Roumande which reminds so many readers of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m deeply flattered by the comparison. What writer, wouldn’t be?  Sherlock Holmes and his side kick, Watson are the most iconic sleuthing team in crime writing history. Holmes is the detective whose unrivalled brilliance solves the crime, whilst dependable old Watson narrates the stories thus giving us unique, observational insights into the Great Man, only occasionally stepping into the frame wielding a gun or his medical bag. We admire both men for different reasons but the team has a leader and the leader is indisputably, Sherlock Holmes.

Hatton and Roumande are different. One readers sums it up very nicely saying that Monsieur Albert Roumande is “far more than any Watson.”

I think so too, so I shall start with Monsieur Albert Roumande. He’s a diener, meaning servant of the morgue.  His jobs involve cleaning, pickling and preserving cadavers, keeping the cutting tools sharp, general admin and financial management , training of new assistants, the odd bit of anatomical drawing, hanging up herbs to mitigate the stench of the morgue and so forth. He has a strong sense of his own class (artisan), his nationality (decidedly French) and his heritage – his great grandfather learnt the trade of diener, at the footstep of the guillotine, during the Revolution when Paris was awash with both bodies and blood.  A fine time for anatomists, then.

Meanwhile, Professor Adolphus Hatton is the younger man at thirty three and English but he’s far from posh. He understands the meaning of hard work, hailing from a poor, rural background himself.  As a boy, he grew up on the land, whilst his family scraped together the money and paid for him to go to medical school to “better himself” in that classic Victorian way.  He ends up in Edinburgh working as junior surgeon, then pathologist and then finally – by way of some yet, untold adventures – arrives back to London to become the Professor of Pathology at St Bart’s and London’s first forensic scientist. Or as it was called in the 1850s, Medical Jurisprudence.

Devoured

Devoured

But this is a team of equals.  And despite his lack of formal education, there’s not much Albert Roumande doesn’t know about anatomy and he’s very much into self-betterment, as well.  The friends read articles in The Lancet together – often out loud in between cutting up the bodies – and Roumande likes nothing better than to experiment with the latest methods available for forensics, such as the discovery of finger printing, as we see in THE DEVIL’S RIBBON.  They admire each other, share the same high moral principles,  enjoy  a bit of a laugh – Roumande being the less uptight and more theatrical of the two-   and they’re both equally passionate about forensics.  And this, at a time when the science was just beginning to emerge but was yet to be admired by others.  Indeed, this “new science of forensics” was seen as deeply un-trust worthy, un-Christian, almost akin to black magic.

This lack of understanding or kudos for their science, leads to bitter frustration on the part of both men. Roumande is forever sending begging letters to potential patrons to secure funding for forensics and worrying about how to make ends meet at the morgue.   Meanwhile, Professor Hatton takes his ire out by stabbing his walnut desk with his favourite scalpel.

These men are intrinsically bound together. Hatton looks up to Roumande – the older man, at forty five – and rarely conducts an autopsy without him. Meanwhile, Roumande loves Hatton deeply and is man enough to show it. He’s protective of the Professor’s reputation and also covers his back in times of trouble. But on a personal front they live very different lives. Roumande is happily married with children (two girls and a boy) and dearly wishes for Hatton to find love and domestic happiness, as he has.  But Hatton is addicted to his work, leaving little time for anything else and lives in a lodging house, only going home, at odd hours, to catch up on some sleep.

DE Meredith

DE Meredith

Some of the more touching scenes, I think, are when Roumande offers his sage like advice on more intimate matters, such as love, women and how to handle affairs of the heart.

Of course, I can see the obvious comparisons with Sherlock Holmes, especially in terms of the  scenic backdrop -Victorian London with all its  the swirling fog and the tangerine glow of the gas light, gothic villains, heinous deeds, the rattle of Hansom carriages over the cobblestones of a heaving   Metropolis.  My books however, are about the emergence of Nineteenth Century forensics – CSI meets Victorian England – and so the material I am working with is far more grisly and graphic than anything you’d be likely to find in Sherlock Holmes.

That’s not to say I don’t refer to the stories in my books. I do, of course, particularly in the debut DEVOURED (Oct 2010). Those readers, who know their Conan Doyle, may recognise a couple of obvious nods to the master, one involving a tattoo on a lady’s finger! But I would suggest that no writer of Victorian crime can pen a novel in this genre, which doesn’t fall under the looming shadow of Doyle. I for one, feel incredibly proud that any comparison is drawn to the brilliant creation that is Sherlock Holmes. But in the end, Hatton and Roumande are very much their own men, and as I write the series and readers learn more about these two friends, I hope they will feel Hatton and Roumande are as unique, as they are empathetic.

For more on the intriguing partnership please visit DE Meredith on her website or Twitter

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1 Response » to “The Hatton and Roumande Mysteries by DE Meredith”

  1. […] E. Meredith writes about her sleuthing duo Hatton and Roumande for Milo’s Rambles.   If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing […]

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