A young woman can hear the souls of man-made objects, and they’re not exactly singing happy tunes in McOmber’s Victorian gothic debut.
Jane Silverlake, an isolated young girl who lives with her father at Stoke Morrow, is grateful when Madeline Lee befriends her. When Nathan Ashe joins the girls, both develop deep feelings for the privileged young man. Jane, no ordinary girl, possesses a power that makes her very different from others: Ever since her mother’s death when she was 6 years old, she’s had the ability to hear the souls of man-made objects. Wishing to appear fascinating to her two friends, Jane shares her secret with them. Maddy is frightened, but Nathan is intrigued and convinces Jane to conduct experiments to further explore her power. Then Nathan, a veteran of the Crimean War, joins a secret society led by charismatic scoundrel Ariston Day and vanishes during an evening with Day’s followers, the Fetches. Famed French Inspector Vidocq arrives to look into the disappearance, but Maddy convinces Jane that the two need to conduct their own investigation. A trip to Nathan’s home reveals a secret hiding place that contains, among other things, a picture of Maddy and Jane, a pistol, a journal and a white ape’s finger. Armed with Nathan’s journal and haunting images of a white forest when she touches certain objects belonging to him, Jane uncovers hidden truths about Nathan and herself while confronting Day and the Fetches. Teeming with as many twists and turns and shadowy characters as the narrow Victorian streets in which the tale is partially set, McOmber creates a convoluted supernatural mystery that bombards the senses with rich dialogue and imagery; but the story’s flow is often lost amid lengthy explanations about motive and meaning, and the narrative may ultimately prove difficult for some to follow.
Casual readers may be confused by the symbolism and terminology, but lovers of the Victorian gothic genre should enjoy.