The title of this book is a bit of a misnomer. While it does indeed report on the Great Stink of London — the summer of 1858, when the sanitary condition of the Thames got so bad that Parliament almost had to flee the stench — it’s more properly an overview of the great engineering works of Joseph Bazalgette. These include road improvements, bridge improvements, new parks, three river embankments, and (of course) the sewer system that saved London from cholera and is still in use today.
So, y’know. If for some reason you need to know about the history of London’s sewer arrangements, and the political squabbling that surrounded their replacement with a better system, then this is a useful book. But I imagine that audience is rather small. 🙂
As is the book — only 191 pages, some of them heavily taken up by illustrations. It’s an overview, not a hugely in-depth study. It also suffers a little bit from repetition, as certain details crop up again and again; Halliday has a particular tic that annoyed me, which is his tendency to put an epigraph at the beginning of the chapter, and then re-quote it in its entirety elsewhere in the chapter, rather than just referring back. In most cases this was not remotely necessary, and contributed to the feeling that he was on occasion hitting me over the head.
But it is the book I needed it to be, namely, an orienting resource on one of the big upheavals that will have affected my characters prior to the beginning of the novel. Now I just need to find, or badger someone at Thames Water into giving me, a set of plans detailing the layout of all tunnels in the area of the City, and I’ll be more or less set.