A down-on-her-luck white girl with facial scars seeks safety (both physical and metaphysical) in a story framed by two unrelated true events that occurred in 1888: the Jack the Ripper murders and the decline of Joseph Merrick, known as the Elephant Man.
Evelyn Fallow knows a degrading death is the best she can hope for if she can't escape "the godforsaken East End." A stint working in a match factory with its poisonous fumes left her with only a partial jaw: the deadly phosphorus necrosis would have killed her without surgery. Evelyn's offered a place as a maid for Mr. Merrick. She considers herself unacceptably ugly, but her repulsion at her client's features is extreme, and initially she stays only because the alternative is grinding poverty in the streets. Nonetheless, Mr. Merrick, a white man with an unknown disease, is fundamentally an extremely good person, and Evelyn's quality of life is high—or it would be, if she and Mr. Merrick weren't tormented by ghosts, hauntings that increase as London's serial killings worsen. Luscious period-appropriate prose adds flavor: “Somehow, the serenity of his syncope rendered his features less monstrous." Unfortunately, the trope in which a profoundly disabled character for whom death might be “a kind of mercy” acts as a lesson for a character, in this case Evelyn, with presumably more to live for is a stale one.
A lovely, suspenseful, lyrical, imperfect paranormal mystery. (Historical paranormal. 13-15)