London, 1893. Elderly Mrs. Bentley is on her deathbed, and her son Robert has returned from France. But in the Bentleys’ well-appointed home, everyone has their secrets, including Robert’s beautiful and elusive wife, the orphan maid she hires from the country, and the mysterious young woman who arrives, claiming to be the bride of Robert’s drowned brother.
Robert is quickly developing a reputation in anthropometry, the nascent science of identifying criminals by body measurements. Yet soon he is caught up in the deceptions swirling around him, for no one under his roof is quite what they seem. When an intruder enters the house and ransacks the study, a chain of events is set in motion that threatens not only the genteel, comfortable life the Bentleys have managed to secure but also their very survival.
A fascinating portrayal of a vanished England as well as an unconventional mystery, The Dark Lantern
exposes the grand “upstairs” of a Victorian home and the darker underbelly of its servants’ quarters. The clash between the classes makes for a suspenseful novel of mistaken identities, intriguing women, and dangerous deceptions.
“Extremely atmospheric–reminded me of Sarah Water’s Fingersmith—yet the period detail does not obscure the narrative tension. I loved the various story lines of upstairs and downstairs life, and the way the twists and turns of the plot were interwoven to keep me guessing–and reading.”
—Janet Gleeson, author of The Thief Taker
“I loved this novel! Victorian England comes to life in rich and minutely imagined detail. Gerri Brightwell masterfully combines historical fiction with mystery, and the result is a page-turner so compelling you won’t want to put it down.”
—Michelle Moran, national bestselling author of Nefertiti
“A hypnotic spell of a novel–The Dark Lantern resurrects a Victorian London with dirt under its nails. Dawning criminology is a hazardous business, but nothing compared to the tangle of secrets in a gentleman’s home, where domestic espionage teems beneath a mask of propriety. Brightwell captures the fraught interdependence of mistress and maid, blackmailer and victim, and winds the tension to devastating effect. An arresting debut.”
—Laura Dietz, author of In the Tenth House
“Clever and gripping, peopled with fascinating and morally ambiguous characters, The Dark Lantern is suspenseful and vividly imagined; a tale of the tangled web of secrets and loyalties that bind master and servant, liars and their targets. Add to that a dollop of 19th century science and social history, and Ms. Brightwell has fashioned a surprising and nuanced story sure to keep fans of well-wrought fiction turning the pages.”
—Megan Chance, author of An Inconvenient Wife
"An uncanny thriller . . . The action will keep the reader as intrigued as a parlor maid eavesdropping outside her mistress’s boudoir."
From the Hardcover edition.