Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Ghastly Business” as Want to Read:
Ghastly Business
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Ghastly Business

3.17  ·  Rating details ·  107 ratings  ·  32 reviews
1929. A girl is strangled in a London alley, the mangled corpse of a peeping Tom is found in a railway tunnel and the juicy details of the latest trunk murder are updated hourly in fresh editions of the evening papers. Into this insalubrious world steps Dora Strang, a doctor's daughter with an unmaidenly passion for anatomy. ...more
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published 2011 by Bloomsbury
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Ghastly Business, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Ghastly Business

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  107 ratings  ·  32 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Ghastly Business
Sep 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed
On a grey London morning in 1929, Dora Strang left her lodgings to catch the bus to go to work for the very first time.

She sat quietly, unnoticed, listening to a group of women discussing a scandalous murder case. They didn’t know that, very soon, Dora would know every detail of that case.

Because Dora was going to work for the distinguished pathologist, Doctor Alfred Kemble.

Dora, a doctor’s daughter, proved to be very capable and efficient, and she learned a good deal. She would work very clo
Sep 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I'm not really sure how to start on this book. I'm not sure if I liked it or not. It took me a week to read it, it was kind of like a chore to get it done. I liked the main character, Dora Strang. I would enjoy following more of her life, but... The timing was off in the story or something. I felt like it went at a frenetic pace at times yet took forever to get there. See what I mean about not knowing how to write about it? I kept feeling like I had missed something and found myself, a couple of ...more
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Dora Strang wanted to be a doctor like her father but her father did not consider it a suitable career for a young woman. It is the nineteen twenties and well brought up, middle class women are not expected to have jobs. Dora persuaded her father to pay for a secretarial course and she enrols with an agency.

She also takes up residence with a former employee of her fathers who runs a boarding house for paying guests. Dora’s first assignment is as a filing clerk at a hospital – working for a path
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This missed getting five stars because I was confused about where it was heading. The fact that I enjoyed it so much, in spite of that, is a tribute to the terrific writing - but the plot needed work!

Perhaps the blurb didn't help. It led me to expect that Dora would start working for her pathologist and then find herself involved in solving a juicy murder or two. It was nothing like that!

Instead, it is essentially a gentle story of Dora experiencing her first real love after years of sneakily r
Suzanne Rivett
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have just finished listening to the talking book read by the author. Up until the last few words I really loved this book. The humour was outstanding and witticisms so clever. Louise Levene was wonderful at giving her characters the accent and personality she had conceptualised. It was evident she had researched the era well and I felt the disdain for women's abilities stretching from Dora's father's Victorian ideas to the half adoring,half spurning attitudes of Dr. Bazzard. The man of Dora's ...more
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm not exactly sure what this book wanted to be. From the write up I was expecting an historical mystery/thriller with an independent female character in a male dominated society. I don't really know what I got. At times witty, and often insightful into the culture of the time, but more often confusing and slightly offputting. There was just too much going on, too many characters (all unlikable), and not enough direction. In the end if asked to sum up this book I would have a hard time. ...more
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Heard Louise Levine at an NSPCC Literary Lunch and was inspired to read this by her brilliant delivery and hilarious speech.
Much enjoyed this tale of love kindled over kidneys. A slowish burner, which livened up to pure delight. I laughed out loud at the one liners. Serious innards highlighted some of the perils of relying on the so-called expert witness and the potential miscarriage of justice. A keen observer of people and relationships.
Carey Combe
Sep 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: a-slog
An extraordinary book - flashes of 'laugh-out-loud' wit, elements of the most bizarre S&M (think mortuary's and pathologists), part historical romance/ social historical commentary/girl growing up - it is a bizarre, but somehow readable book, although too confused for me to read another.
Claudia Aubert
May 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book was disappointing, characters and plot line needed more development.
Sue Warren
Sep 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
An unusual 1920s story. Well written and enjoyable but not for the squeamish!
Helen Woods
Sep 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great fun. Levene’s heroines are always strong and a bit odd...
May 31, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
Levene is a new author to me & coupled with the fact that I don’t tend to read period novels (this is set in the 1920’s) I wasn’t sure what I’d make of it.Well for probably the first half at least I was truly enamoured. I loved the dark, often slightly warped humour & felt this had the makings of a series – sort of Kate Atkinson meets “The Mangle Street Murders”.

Dora, having just left school, finds herself working in the office of the eminent & enigmatic pathologist Alfred Kemble & attending not
Charlotte Kemp
Loved it. Such an interesting story. The author is my husband's sister in law, so it was fascinating to see a glimpse into her brain. ...more
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emily Littler
I can't tell if I liked this book or not. I certainly enjoyed reading it, but there were definitely times I got confused with goings-on, and I questioned whether I'd missed something. The characters although likeable were difficult to identify with, but were fleshed out enough to not feel as though they were just moving the plot along.

As a fan of forensics and one of those odd people interested in post-mortem work, I quite preferred the passages within the book involving Dr Kemble's work, twinn
Jun 24, 2011 rated it liked it
In 1920's London a young girl, Dora Strang, lives in a lodging house and starts a new job as a filing clerk in the office of a leading pathologist. The entire country is still trying to recover from the Great War and the public are fascinated by a series of grisly murders.

The period setting in this novel was done very well and I liked the vein of humour running through it, but somehow it wasn't as good as I had expected it to be. Dora is a bit wishy-washy and at times difficult to identify with
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting book. Interesting in an odd way that it. The characters never quite reveal, though parts of them reveal quite deeply. The storyline slightly erratic and not smooth running, but intriguing at the same time.

Levene captured the era well. As I read it I could hear it all being said in the clipped tones so associated with those times.
Hazel Lewis
Apr 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
I didn't enjoy this book and it's unusual for me because I usually look forward to curling up with my book and reading the next few chapters. I know a lot of reviewers have said they enjoyed it but it didn't work for me and I won't be reading any more by this author. The action only really gained momentum towards the end - a long wait. ...more
Mary Scott
Apr 12, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: crime
A very strange book, sometimes funny, sometimes erotic and sometimes interesting. But mostly odd and left me not really caring what happened to Dora. Doubt that I will read another book by Louise Levene.
Helen Farrow
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up randomly whle at the library. It was very amusing despite the gory descriptions of the work of a pathologist. I thought it was cleverly written & was very atmospheric of a foggy 1920's London. Will watch out for more of Loiuse Levene's writing. ...more
Nov 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Ghastly Business was funny, bizarre and strangely compelling. I loved the era - London in the 1920's. ...more
Jul 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Quite entertaining, and better than her last book. I'm impressed by how well she creates the sense of period and place. ...more
Sep 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
I love elements of her turn of phrase but the story made no sense and I cared less
Debby Kean
Dec 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
The characterisation is brilliant, and there are definite twists in the tale - it was not at all what I expected - although it was, as I hoped, delightfully clever.
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Creative and funny, but darker than you initially expect (not surprising with the grim subject matter).
Jane Walker
Jun 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The character of Kemble is obviously, though loosely, based on the life of Bernard Spilsbury, which Levene acknowledges. The writing is witty and inventive, but I'm glad it didn't go on any longer. ...more
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Was ok but disappointing and I didn't finish it - it didn't make me want to read it and only got to page 130 after 2 weeks ...more
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2016
Not a great story. Some humour made it readable but storyline was not really cohesive. Made it to the end but not interested in reading anything else by this author.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Harlot's Press
  • Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82
  • Déjà Dead (Temperance Brennan, #1)
  • The Mirror & the Light
  • The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes (The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Mysteries, #1)
  • A Test of Wills (Inspector Ian Rutledge, #1)
  • Wolf Hall
  • The Hanging Valley (Inspector Banks, #4)
  • The Sentence is Death (Detective Daniel Hawthorne #2)
  • I've Got Your Number
  • The Department of Sensitive Crimes (Detective Varg, #1)
  • Wednesday's Child (Inspector Banks, #6)
  • Dry Bones that Dream (Inspector Banks, #7)
  • Crimson Lake (Crimson Lake, #1)
  • Wings of Fire (Inspector Ian Rutledge, #2)
  • Bring Up the Bodies
  • Riviera Gold (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #16)
  • Recipe for a Perfect Wife
See similar books…
Louise Levene is the author of A Vision of Loveliness, a BBC Book at Bedtime, published in May 2010, and in paperback in May 2011. She has been the dance critic of The Sunday Telegraph since 1998 but has also been an advertising copywriter, a window dresser, a radio presenter, an office cleaner, a crossword editor, a college professor and a saleslady. She lives in London with her husband and two c ...more

Related Articles

Kazuo Ishiguro insists he’s an optimist about technology.  “I'm not one of these people who thinks it's going to come and destroy us,” he...
304 likes · 28 comments