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3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  2,235 Ratings  ·  182 Reviews
The year is 1872. The place is Wigan, England, a coal town where rich mine owners live lavishly alongside miners no better than slaves. Into this dark, complicated world comes Jonathan Blair, who has accepted a commission to find a missing man.

When he begins his search every road leads back to one woman, a haughty, vixenish pit girl named Rose. With her fiery hair and skir
Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 1st 2000 by Ballantine Books (first published April 23rd 1996)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jim Haberkorn
Sep 18, 2011 Jim Haberkorn rated it it was amazing
I really like Martin Cruz Smith's writing style. It works for me and fills me with admiration for his mastery of his craft. Two things stand out: First: he weaves his research into his books so seamlessly that you never sense the research being piled on you like even very successful writers oftentimes do. Second: his sentence structure is masterful. Every sentence seems to have its own unique contstruction - it's obvious he spends a lot of time on that and it allows the prose to flow smoothly ...more
Linda Hart
Sep 28, 2011 Linda Hart rated it really liked it
With a fascinating and fluid writing style Smith contrasts the historically informative and dangerously complex world of coal miners with the privileged lives of Victorian England's elite upper class. In addition to vivid class distinctions he explores 19th-century English conventions of gender and feminism with exceptionally well-drawn characters. A complete departure from his Gorky Park, this is a romance and compelling mystery with a fun twist.
Lewis Weinstein
This is a terrific story, full of intrigue, with a complicated plot that kept many questions in the air, in some cases trusting the reader to connect the dots after other information was provided. The characters are interesting (that's an understatement!) and well-developed; you keep learning more as the story goes on. There is also much fascinating information about coal mining (deep mines), and not favorable comments on Britain's role in Africa in the 1800s. I had read some of Martin Cruz ...more
Jul 27, 2014 SlowRain rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I've read all seven of Martin Cruz Smith's "Arkady Renko" novels and most of his others, and I've enjoyed most of them. While this isn't an "Arkady Renko" novel, Rose is easily up there with the best of Smith's novels, with perhaps the exception of Gorky Park; it's THAT good. The story, set in England in 1872, is about the attempts of a disgraced mining engineer (Jonathan Blair), recently returned from Africa, as he tries to fight malaria and deal with his tarnished reputation while accepting th ...more
Usually I don't like novels where the plot is so incidental to the story, but Rose manages to be a happy exception. Superficially, it's a mystery novel, but, if mystery is all you're reading it for, you are headed for severe disappointment. Like he did with Gorky Park years before, Martin Cruz Smith employs Rose's unique setting as an engine for propelling the narrative forward, and I eventually became so enthralled by the descriptions of life in a coal mining town that I almost stopped caring ...more
Quite a departure from the "Arkady Renko" series by the author. This historical mystery takes place in the mining town of Wigan in England. The main character Jonathon Blair is a disgraced Mining Engineer. Blair is asked by his benefactor Bishop Hannay to investigate the disappearance of his future son in law.

The descriptions of mining in the late 1800's and the mining community were vivid and riveting reading. The conditions underground and the men and women whose daily grind was the delivery o
Aug 10, 2016 Joe rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-thriller
The author of the excellent Arkady Renko series transports the reader back to 1871 and the British coal mining town of Wigan with Rose - an historical novel/mystery. The protagonist, Jonathan Blair, of unknown ancestry, is a down on his luck mining engineer; a rough around the edges Indiana Jones. And reminiscent of James Garner in Support Your Local Sheriff, Blair is just “passing through” Wigan on his way back to Africa, to re-pursue fame and fortune on that continent’s Gold Coast. Blair’s ...more
Oct 31, 2014 Manugw rated it really liked it

This book is an original mystery story wrapped in a somewhat poetic prose full of antique English words. The author has put his efforts in the construction of a though character Blair, the mining engineer and African gold mining explorer, unwillingly taking an assignment imposed by his boss. Blair is forced to mix with people and surroundings absolutely hostile to him, he finds himself enduring the everyday hardships of life in the gritt
Aug 12, 2009 Teri rated it really liked it
This is on the juniors' summer reading list as an option, and I hope a lot of them choose it because I think they will like it. The novel has something for everyone: mystery, violence, romance, adventure. And thematically it hits on women's rights, class structure, colonization, exploitation, race, corporate responsibility, identity,and more. Set during the late Victorian times in the coal-mining town of Wigan, it tells the tale of a mining engineer sent to Wigan to redeem himself, and to find a ...more
Jan 15, 2014 Cojaysea rated it really liked it
now if i were british i would call this a" corker "of a read..i have only read one of smiths novels his very first GORKY PARK years ago and found it no where near the raves it was getting tired of cold war novels and spy vs. spy stuff that i abandoned him for years ..this opened up my eyes to having to seek out more work by him as long as " russia " and " the soviet union " are not the name themes . i found out about this book from a web site that mentioned novels that are very little known ...more
M.K. Theodoratus
Feb 03, 2014 M.K. Theodoratus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical fiction fans, mystery readers
Shelves: mystery
I do love me a book that draws me into a living breathing world. My reading pleasure seems to double when the pleasure drops unexpectedly into my lap.

Case in point: Martin Cruz Smith's Rose, a fabulous Mid-Victorian mystery set in Wigan, Lancastershire, UK. The plot line has plenty of twists and red herrings to keep you guessing, Oh, the clues are well marked along the way but there are so many suspects with so many guilty secrets, including the missing cleric whose disappearance must be solved
Marcia Chocinsky
Jul 27, 2014 Marcia Chocinsky rated it it was amazing
Martin Cruz Smith is a wonderful writer! I really enjoy his books for the writing, historical knowledge, character development, dialogue, plot, etc. His books are well written and you become caught up in a whole different world which is what I really love about reading. MCS is a master at this whether in his Arkady Renko series or his other novels. This book is set in the late 1800's in England and provides historical information on mining and Victorian England and the life of those rich as well ...more
Sep 11, 2008 Gordon rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: my students and friends
I was tremendously buoyed by this book. It delves (as it ought) into the world of the Victorian miner, a horrific and dark passage. Into it comes the typical Smith hero, Nigger Blair, a man who has been dragged back to England from his first love Africa and his daughter. As always, the mystery goes on while Blair discovers a new reason to live and a thread that will lead him to solve the mystery of a disappeared Anglican priest. This book is filled with facts about a time we don't always study. ...more
Mags Delaney
Mar 21, 2014 Mags Delaney rated it really liked it
Loved it on so many levels ... I was born and brought up in Wigan and though now I live on the other side of the world this story transported me home ... My great great grandmother was a pit brow lass and my grandad was a miner so parts of the story really resonated with me. The Minorca Hotel and Scholes Bridge are still there as is Wallgate and Millgate (and a good number of the pubs mentioned!) I was unaware of 'purring' even though I had a pair of clogs when I was a child in the 70's (credit ...more
Nov 30, 2008 Michelle rated it liked it
Recommendation from my librarian. I enjoyed this book. I thought the protagonist was a fascinating and very well drawn character. The descriptions of the mines and life in the mining town was fabulous. The prose was fabulous. I just couldn't give it higher than a 3 because I wasn't completely swept up in the story nor did I think about it at all when not reading it.
Aug 04, 2008 Mick rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
This is a very well executed mystery/suspense novel. It takes place in the late 19th century in a small coal town in England. The author does a wonderful job of immersing you in the times while also telling a compelling story. It reminded me of Dickens in many ways.
Well, that took longer than I thought. I finally finished this book last night, it took me a whole week to read. I did enjoy it but I found it lagged a little in the middle. I would pick it up and get through a few pages before I found myself dozing off. The protagonist Jonathan Blair and the mystery of where the curate, John Maypole went kept me coming back for more (and motivating me to read while sitting up).

Blair, mining engineer and cartographer, recently returned to Wigan, England from Afr
Feb 09, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes historical mysteries
Recommended to Mary by: Library Book Sale
The year is 1872. The place is Wigan, England - a nineteenth-century town in the coal-mining district of Lancashire. Into this dark, complicated world where wealthy mine owners live like royalty alongside miners who are treated no better than slaves, comes Jonathan Blair, a mining engineer who has accepted a commission to find a missing man. Recently returned from Africa's Gold Coast, Jonathan finds his native England utterly depressing and soon falls into melancholy and alcoholism.

Desperate to
Kate Gannon
Jan 15, 2008 Kate Gannon rated it liked it
Having enjoyed Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko novels, I thought I'd try something else by him. Like the Renko novels, Rose has a cantankerous, discontented, unappreciated anti-hero who is probably too smart for his own good. Like Renko, he has death-defying escapades which are resolved with the author's characteristic twists. Likewise, the hero has a fascinating, equally cantankerous female counterpart. This book takes place in England during the Victorian period. Smith's scholarship in this ...more
Mar 28, 2010 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Set in the 19thC mining town of Wigan, Lancashire 'Nigger Blair' is sent there to solve the problem of the mysterious disappearance of the local curate, affianced to Miss Charlotte Hannay, a member of the ruling family in the region. Blair is a troubled character,half-addicted to arsenic and suffering from malaria. All he wants to do is return to Africa; the bargain is that if he solves this mystery he will be funded to do so. But as Blair begin investigating, he finds himself digging in deep ...more
Rod Duncan
Oct 05, 2014 Rod Duncan rated it really liked it
Martin Cruz Smith has written some of my favourite crime thrillers. Polar Star is top of the list. So I was excited to read this novel. It is set in Victorian England, which added to the sense of anticipation. It is a setting I much enjoy.

Unfortunately I didn’t find myself enjoying Rose as much as his other novels. The protagonist was interesting, but not a shadow of the fascinating Arkardy Renko introduced in Gorky Park. All of Cruz Smith’s fabulous turn of phrase is on display here, but the sh
Dec 18, 2013 Joni rated it really liked it
John Blair is a disgraced African engineer who upon return to England, finds himself penniless and with few future prospects. He is hired to investigate the disappearance of a local cleric in a mining town called Wigan. Upon arrival, he confronts class systems, poverty, desperation and a strong willful pit girl named Rose. These brave women defied society and chose to work alongside men in a time when women wore bustles not pants. As his investigation ensues, Blair falls for this woman and ...more
Mary Grace Walsh
Oct 20, 2013 Mary Grace Walsh rated it really liked it
Way back when I became a committed fan of Cruz Smith when I read his blockbuster Gorky Park. I've since read all his novels featuring Arkady Renko the unique Russian policeman. I decided to read Rose because of it's author. I'm so glad I did.
This historical novel features well drawn colorful characters and a super plot. The coal mines, African exploitation, the aristocracy, the church of England and the plight of the poor are all aspects of this fascinating novel. Cruz Smith also writes vibrant
Mar 06, 2014 Colleen rated it really liked it
Another world I had no idea about - that of the pit girls in the mining industry in England. Who knew? A mystery wrapped in the history of coal mining. Well done and well written though I could have done with less of the engineering aspects of a coal mine. I'm sure there are those who can't get enough of that though. Kindles do not do maps well so perhaps I would have been more engaged in the mine layout if I could really see the map. My fault not the author's. A different novel for Mr. Smith ...more
Jan 05, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I have a special reason for reading this book. My family ancestry hails from this very town, Wigan, England; from that very period, the late 1800's; having done that very thing: mined for coal. We were cogs in the industrial wheel. To see the work Smith put into this novel, to read the culture, the history, the stories of the characters....was enlightening. Yes, fictional, but he gave my family depth beyond the words on the census and birth and death records. I gotta get me a pair of those ...more
Megan Pursell
Jun 23, 2009 Megan Pursell rated it liked it
Read for my mystery book group.

I enjoyed this book more for the setting - in the coal fields and city of Wigan - than the "mystery."

Martin Cruz Smith can write good characters but the interplay of this particular set of people seemed more stereotypical and shallow than those in his Arkady Renko series.

So, an ok read but not a favorite.

It did inspire me to start "Road to Wigan Pier" to see what happens to all those coal miners...
Mar 20, 2014 Nan rated it it was amazing
This book has it all for me. It features characters of depth and interest. This book is a mystery, a love story, a history lesson and one of wry humor and wit. The settings cross the oceans and continents as well as social classes. I have read it several times and it is a favorite to pick up when I suddenly get a need for a good read.
Apr 10, 2014 Tess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm originally from near Wigan, and I was given the book because that's where it is set. I think it did well in creating the atmosphere of the place, and the dialogue written in dialect (albeit toned down for non Lancastrian readers) suprised me at times for its accuracy. The storyline moved along fine and it was an entertaining read, though I'd worked out where it was going before it got there.
Apr 29, 2008 Trilby rated it liked it
The setting is atmospheric and the characters are interesting and colorful in this mystery set in an 1870's Midlands coal town. What turned me off, however, was the plot, which is utterly preposterous. I don't expect historical fiction to be, well, history, but I do expect it to be pretty close to an accurate depiction of the life of the people in that place and time.
Mar 25, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing
What a magnificent book! Amazing descriptions and historical/cultural details of an English coal-mining village in the second half of the Nineteenth century provide the background for an the intricate plot and vivid characterizations. I rarely find a novel that is so well-written and entertaining.
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AKA Simon Quinn, Nick Carter.

Martin Cruz Smith (born Martin William Smith), American novelist, received his BA in Creative Writing from the University of Pennsylvania in 1964. He worked as a journalist from 1965 to 1969 before turning his hand to fiction. His first mystery (Gypsy in Amber – 1971) features NY gypsy art dealer Roman Grey and was nominated for an Edgar Award. Nightwing was his breakt
More about Martin Cruz Smith...

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