"Why had life singled me out for drudgery and isolation, and to be the instrument of others' unhappiness?"
Katharine, an orphan reliant entirely upon the charity of her father's sister-in-law, has been dispatched by her horrid aunt to the estate of her father's only remaining living sibling—to declare him a lunatic and thereby settle the family's fortune on her odious cousin. The pragmatic 17-year-old is astounded and appalled to find that Stranwyne is home to a gasworks, a kiln and a foundry, along with two idyllic villages populated by some 800 souls plucked from the workhouses of London to serve and support her Uncle Tully. While far from a lunatic, Katharine's uncle is nevertheless terribly vulnerable, a man today's readers will recognize as on the autistic spectrum, a wizard with numbers and gadgets but entirely helpless in society. At the behest of handsome, gray-eyed Lane, her uncle's chief caregiver, Katharine agrees to a stay of 30 days, possibly the only free days of her entire life. Cameron, through wry, observant Katharine, spins a deliciously gothic tale peopled with appealing and not-so-appealing secondary characters, punctuated by the requisite madness and shot through with intrigue. Though readers may not be surprised by Katharine's arc, there are more than enough twists and turns along the way to maintain suspense.
By turns funny and poignant, this period mystery is a thoroughgoing delight. (Historical mystery. 12-16)