Helen Smith's The Miracle Inspector is set in a futuristic London, where the city is divided from the rest of the country, and corruption and oppression rules the city. Various counties are partitioned off, and the citizens of London are trapped in their city, with no allowance to leave the city at all.
Women and children are not allowed to leave their homes, unless their faces are covered, and only to visit with relatives. The fear of obscene men that perversely desire women and children is infiltrated in everyone's minds by the government (akin to the fear of terrorists that is present in North America today), which is the key reason women and children are not allowed outside of their homes. Every male public servant is then assigned various assignments/projects to oversee, and that is where the main character, Lucas, comes in. Lucas is the Miracle Inspector, one who has been assigned to inspect 'miracles' all over the country and find out if they are actual miracles or a sham. His wife Angela stays home, like other wives, but is frustrated and depressed at the situation they all find themselves in, and finds comfort in reading the poetry of a friend of the family, Jesmond, a man who recites poetry in the undergrounds of London, and one whom Lucas doesn't really care much for.
Lucas and his wife soon plan to escape London for Cornwall, a city where they hear they can be safe, build a family and have a happy home. However, what ensues in the following chapters is not close to what they (or the reader) expects.
The Miracle Inspector is a dark dystopian novel, full of twists and turns that has the reader guessing and waiting in anticipation to see what happens next. Although it is dark due to the graphic content that it contains (in addition to its sensual scenes), the wit and humour that's wrapped around the storyline is somewhat refreshing in that, in the midst of the chaos going on, we can't help but smile once in a while at a snide comment at one point or the tone of the narrator at another.
With that said, The Miracle Inspector does not leave much to be said at the end, in that we are left guessing as to what happens to the characters. I felt the book did not end as it should have; it was a cliffhanger that isn't really a cliffhanger; there is no indication that the story will be continued from where it stopped...unless of course the author plans to have a sequel to it, which would explain a lot. I say it's a cliffhanger because we're left with so many questions like: what happened to the characters at the end, did Lucas die? Did Angela make it to Cornwall? Was there a resolution as to London's demise, a denouement of some sort? What does the future hold for the rest of the citizens? Did anything change? Too many questions are left unanswered, and while you might want to go back and read the book again from the start, to see if you missed anything, the questions still remain unanswered.
It is an 'involved' novel for the most part; it's not a 'quick' read or a book to browse through just to overcome boredom. Smith's writing is definitely brilliant, however you do have to be patient enough to delve into this book and follow through in order to fully grasp the grave situation and disarray that has overcome London, and to also understand the characters and their complexities. It is most definitely not a novel for teenagers, like most contemporary dystopian novels are written to be.
Indeed Helen Smith created an excellent story concept that is very much close to what is happening in today's world, and although it might not be the novel for some, it most definitely will appeal to lovers and fans of literary fiction with a dystopian twist.
*** I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.***