The year is 1831.
Down the murky alleyways of London, acts of unspeakable wickedness are taking place and no one is willing to speak out on behalf of the city’s vulnerable poor as they disappear from the streets.
Out of these shadows comes Hester White, a bright young woman who is desperate to escape the slums by any means possible.
When Hester is thrust into the world of the aristocratic Brock family, she leaps at the chance to improve her station in life under the tutelage of the fiercely intelligent and mysterious Rebekah Brock. But whispers from her past slowly begin to poison her new life and both she and Rebekah are lured into the most sinister of investigations.
Hester and Rebekah find themselves crossing every boundary they’ve ever known in pursuit of truth, redemption and passion. But their trust in each other will be tested as a web of deceit begins to unspool, dragging them into the blackest heart of a city where something more depraved than either of them could ever imagine is lurking . . .
I have to be honest with you – I didn’t even read the blurb for this one before requesting it on NetGalley. The cover enchanted me and even though I have the Kindle version and will probably never see the cover again, I felt that I had to have it. I’m not the brightest star in the heavens, I accept that.
Thankfully the cover isn’t the only good thing about this book – it’s a dark historical fiction mystery, where two young women of very different social standings go a’sleuthin’ to uncover why people are disappearing across London. The flow of this story is quite slow and spends a lot of time building up the tension before a quick conclusion at the end, I wasn’t particularly a fan of the ending once all of the action was complete but the lead up to it was very enjoyable.
Hester, the main character, is a gratifyingly intelligent woman who has fallen on hard times since she was orphaned as a child and now finds herself in a position to get out of the slums after being run over and then rescued by a talented young doctor. None of the characters seem to be overly encumbered with the Victorian formalities I’d normally expect in a book set in this era, but it does give the characters much more scope in terms of action and sleuthing. Once she is introduced to the doctor’s sister, they form a close friendship very quickly which is tested at every turn by the conspiracies that surround them.
Even though this book didn’t hit all of the spots for me, I enjoyed the gothic atmosphere and the intensity of all the characters – as a debut novel from this author, it feels like she’s just warming up. I’ll absolutely be keeping my eye out for her next work and if it has a cover this pretty… I’ll just buy the print copy!
**Thank you NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review**