A young lady of the privileged class becomes intrigued with a series of violent crimes in this thriller set in Victorian England.
It’s 1840, and orphaned 19-year-old Catherine Sorgeiul resides with her uncle in his London home. England is in the midst of a recession, and the streets in this section of the city are dangerous to traverse and strewn with clutter and filth. While her uncle encourages Catherine to become socially active—potential suitor, Constantine Janisser, and his parents come calling as do the daughters of a prominent family—she shuns their company and prefers to stay within the confines of the home. But when a serial killer, christened the Man of Crows by the newspapers (because of his unique positioning of each body), begins preying on young, vulnerable working-class women, Catherine’s imagination is sparked, and she is irresistibly drawn to the case. She writes about each victim’s life as she imagines it to be and begins to slip out of the house to secretly visit the murder sites. Fixated with each slaying, Catherine agrees to accompany Constantine and Miss Grey, an acquaintance, to a magic show that reenacts the murders, with unpleasant consequences. As each killing strikes closer and closer to home, and more people disappear from Catherine’s life, the circumstances behind Catherine’s delicate emotional state are slowly revealed, and eventually, the identity of the killer is disclosed. Veteran nonfiction author Williams’ (England’s Mistress, 2006, etc.) first attempt at fiction is uneven at best. While she writes with authority about this era in English history and paints a graphic image of the difficulties people faced during that time—be thankful for hot showers—the meandering narrative is often difficult to follow, and the story seems to lose its focus.
At times the story is a pleasure to read, but not often enough to recommend.