‘We have no need to protect ourselves from the bad sort
because we ARE the bad sort . . .’
‘This newspaper has taken note that the past month has been remarkable for the prevalence of cases where men, women and children are declared missing. Scarcely a week passes without the occurrence of an incident of this type’ – The Morning Herald, Tuesday 13 September 1831
Down the murky alleyways of London, acts of unspeakable wickedness are taking place and the city’s vulnerable poor are disappearing 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, dragging them into the blackest heart of a city where something more depraved than either of them could ever imagine is lurking. . .
My reading experience:
Thanks to Hodder and Stoughton and NetGalley for my free ARC.
Hester is living a miserable life. It is 1831, London is a squalor of filth and poverty. She wasn’t meant to have this life and can only hope to escape it. She hopes. She dreams. And then she literally ends up under the wheels of a carriage which changes her life forever.
Meet the amiable, charming Calder and his haughty, brusque sister Rebekah. We are reminded that privilege too has its cages, and that all is not as it may first seem.
Hester is transported to the beautiful rural home of Waterford, a library, a stable of horses and an education.
She falls in love with this notion of being lifted out of the slums into a better life but Rebekah needs her help for something else. There is reported in broadsheets and the gossip of servants the missing persons and speculations of their miserable ends. Rebekah wants to find out what has happened to her missing ladies maid, and this plunges her and Hester into an underworld of wickedness and misdemeanour that neither of them could’ve predicted.
As a reader I found this story so easy to get into – I was quickly plunged into the streets of London and the emotions and growth of Hester. Almost instantly I found it difficult to put down. It is in this portion of the story that the author gains strength and colour, with vivid visceral descriptions and savage scenes of the depravity of criminals. In a time of scientific growth the need and desire of knowledge was sometimes so great that it overwhelmed the more sensible and rational reasoning of men. These men employed the services of criminals to fulfil their requirements and remained untouchable.
A gripping tale of mystery, missing persons, obligations, relationships, propriety and poverty, I highly recommended this read.
A note on book design: the hardcopy of the book is beautiful in its muted tones and textures, a collectors copy.
A note in the type: set in Fournier MT designed by Monoface in 1924. It is based on types cut in 1742, these being of the most influential designs of the eighteenth century. More on this is detailed at the back of the book.
Themes: philanthropy, mystery, murder, poverty, love, trust, loyalty, scientific knowledge