Thanks to NetGalley and Tin House Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: January 12th, 2021
London 1893: High up in a house, on a dark, snowy night, a lone seamstress stands by a window. So begins the swirling, serpentine world of Paraic O’Donnell’s Victorian-inspired mystery, the story of a city cloaked in shadow, but burning with questions: why does the seamstress choose to jump out of that window? Why is there a cryptic message sewn into her skin? And how is she connected to a rash of missing girls, all of whom seem to have disappeared under similar circumstances?
On the case is Gideon Bliss, a young Cambridge dropout who is in love with one of the missing girls, and his partner, Inspector Cutter, a detective as sharp and committed to his work as he is wryly hilarious. There is also Octavia Hillingdon, a young reporter determined to tell stories despite her employer’s preference that she write a woman’s society column. By turns, clever, surprising, and impossible to put down, The House on Vesper Sands peels back the mystery layer by layer, offering in the strange undertow of late 19th century London a startling glimpse at the secrets we all hold inside.
The House on Vesper Sands is a little slow in the beginning, but it gathers steam as it moves along, and turns out to be an imaginative Victorian mystery, touched with a bit of the supernatural. The characters are well written and I especially enjoyed the engaging repartee between Inspector Cutter and young Gideon Bliss. Their exchanges provided some much needed moments of levity amidst the darker, eerie tones of the story. While much of the action takes place in the final chapters of the book, I found O’Donnell’s atmospheric writing and quirky characters quite entertaining, and was thoroughly satisfied with the way the ending wrapped everything up. I’m actually hoping that O’Donnell turns this into a series because I’d love to see more of Cutter and Bliss. While it shares some similarities of other books in the sub-genre of Victorian Gothic, it contains many unique elements that make it stand out. I particularly recommend The House on Vesper Sands for fans of classic authors such as Wilkie Collins and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.