First of all, this is like the best name for a mystery ever. Wobble to Death? Really? Awesome.
Written by Peter Lovesey, who you may know as the writer of the Inspector Diamond mysteries, and first published in 1970, Wobble to Death is the first in a short series of Victorian-era mysteries. Victorian England? Mystery? I’m so there. Why had I never heard of this before?
Frankly, it’s not the most brilliant of mysteries, in the mystery sense. I mean, it’s perfectly okay. I wondered who did it, and at the end I was like, “hm, okay, I get that.” But there wasn’t any overly brilliant detective work. The detectives—Cribb and Thackery—were just fine. Nothing particularly interesting about either of them, maybe they (or at least Cribb, it’s advertised as the “Sergeant Cribb mysteries”) become more sparkly as the series progresses.
The Victoriana. Now that sparkled.
The setting of the book is a 6-day race walking competition, called a “wobble.” The first corpse doesn’t fall until page 61, but I didn’t care because the 60 pages of wobble were absolutely fascinating. It’s just so weird. Sixteen men just walking and/or running in circles for six days, many of them collapsing, their feet bleeding, exhausted. It’s so Victorian. It’s so fabulous. Beyond the wobble, the entire book is just drenched in details of the era.
I don’t know how fascinating this actually is. I’m pretty much a Victorian nerd of epic proportions. Reading this book felt like walking the streets of 19th-century London, and I loved every minute. If that doesn’t excite you, you maybe should skip the book.
So, as a mystery, average. As an outlet for my Victorian desires, fabulous. I’ll be reading more just for that.
P.S. According to the blurbs on the back, lots of people thought this was a much better mystery than I did.
P.P.S. And apparently it’s also been made into a tv series??! Who knew?