An orphan-turned-heiress, a university student, a down-on-his-heels clergyman, an inspector from Scotland Yard, a number of missing girls, and a host of high-society figures collide in this supernatural, gothic mystery.
London, 1893. Octavia Hillingdon might be an heiress, but that's only because she and her brother, Georgie, were adopted by a newspaper magnate and given opportunities that would have otherwise been out of reach. Now, Octavia is a bicycle-riding Victorian lady journalist trying to uncover big stories even as she's limited to reporting on society events and gossipy pieces about the Spiriters by a difficult editor. Elf—that is, the Most Honourable Marquess of Hartington—is her friend and party sidekick, winnowing out gossipy tidbits for her. Gideon Bliss is an exceedingly poor university student in Cambridge who drops everything to rush to London after receiving a cryptic letter from his clergyman uncle about impending danger, yet he secretly hopes to once again meet up with his beloved Angela. The volatile Inspector Cutter handles special cases dealing with the occult at Scotland Yard. The lives of all these characters and more collide over the course of a few days in February: Gideon stumbles upon Angela—wearing a thin white shift and barely lucid—before the altar in an empty church, but he is drugged, she is taken, and he seeks Inspector Cutter’s help. A seamstress jumps to her death from a window of Lord Strythe’s London home, the gentleman himself disappears, and Olivia tries to find out why. Author O’Donnell carefully unspools the gothic creepiness of his story, teasing the reader with tidbits of information that raise more questions than they answer: Just who are the Spiriters? What are they doing with the young girls who go missing? How is the seamstress’s suicide related to the death of the Inspector’s wife? In the end, all the pieces fit together.
An intriguing, unexpected gothic mashup with elements of Dorothy Sayers, Wilkie Collins, and Josephine Tey.