The Dark Lantern

The Dark Lantern

3.2 5
by Gerri Brightwell

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London, 1893. Elderly Mrs. Bentley is on her deathbed, and her son Robert has returned from France. But in the Bentleys’ well-appointed home, everyone has their secrets, including Robert’s beautiful and elusive wife, the orphan maid she hires from the country, and the mysterious young woman who arrives, claiming to be the bride of Robert’s drowned…  See more details below


London, 1893. Elderly Mrs. Bentley is on her deathbed, and her son Robert has returned from France. But in the Bentleys’ well-appointed home, everyone has their secrets, including Robert’s beautiful and elusive wife, the orphan maid she hires from the country, and the mysterious young woman who arrives, claiming to be the bride of Robert’s drowned brother.

Robert is quickly developing a reputation in anthropometry, the nascent science of identifying criminals by body measurements. Yet soon he is caught up in the deceptions swirling around him, for no one under his roof is quite what they seem. When an intruder enters the house and ransacks the study, a chain of events is set in motion that threatens not only the genteel, comfortable life the Bentleys have managed to secure but also their very survival.

A fascinating portrayal of a vanished England as well as an unconventional mystery, The Dark Lantern exposes the grand “upstairs” of a Victorian home and the darker underbelly of its servants’ quarters. The clash between the classes makes for a suspenseful novel of mistaken identities, intriguing women, and dangerous deceptions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Extremely atmospheric–reminded me of Sarah Water’s Fingersmith—yet the period detail does not obscure the narrative tension. I loved the various story lines of upstairs and downstairs life, and the way the twists and turns of the plot were interwoven to keep me guessing–and reading.”
—Janet Gleeson, author of The Thief Taker

“I loved this novel! Victorian England comes to life in rich and minutely imagined detail. Gerri Brightwell masterfully combines historical fiction with mystery, and the result is a page-turner so compelling you won’t want to put it down.”
—Michelle Moran, national bestselling author of Nefertiti

“A hypnotic spell of a novel–The Dark Lantern resurrects a Victorian London with dirt under its nails. Dawning criminology is a hazardous business, but nothing compared to the tangle of secrets in a gentleman’s home, where domestic espionage teems beneath a mask of propriety. Brightwell captures the fraught interdependence of mistress and maid, blackmailer and victim, and winds the tension to devastating effect. An arresting debut.”
—Laura Dietz, author of In the Tenth House

“Clever and gripping, peopled with fascinating and morally ambiguous characters, The Dark Lantern is suspenseful and vividly imagined; a tale of the tangled web of secrets and loyalties that bind master and servant, liars and their targets. Add to that a dollop of 19th century science and social history, and Ms. Brightwell has fashioned a surprising and nuanced story sure to keep fans of well-wrought fiction turning the pages.”
—Megan Chance, author of An Inconvenient Wife

"An uncanny thriller . . . The action will keep the reader as intrigued as a parlor maid eavesdropping outside her mistress’s boudoir."
Publishers Weekly

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly

Brightwell's debut, an uncanny thriller, brings late Victorian London to vivid life. Devon-born housemaid Jane Wilbred has snared her new post with the Bentley family with a letter of reference she forged, omitting any mention of the possibly pertinent fact that her late mother was a notorious murderer. That, however, is trifling compared to the shady games being played both upstairs and downstairs at 32 Cursitor Road while the family matriarch lingers on her deathbed, especially the struggle between mysterious beauty Mina Bentley, wife of younger son Robert, and the wan stranger who claims to be the widow of older brother Henry (drowned recently while sailing home after years in India). Meanwhile, Robert is focused on a battle closer to his heart: winning official recognition for anthropometry, the science of identifying criminals by body measurements. Far from being an arcane digression, Robert's passion eventually figures into the intricate and surprising plot. The action will keep the reader as intrigued as a parlor maid eavesdropping outside her mistress's boudoir. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Adult/High School- This novel transports readers to dark, damp, gritty Victorian London as surely (but less bloodily) as Johnny Depp's movie Sweeney Todd . Secret pasts, hidden identities, class divisions, romance, criminal behavior, police procedures-Lantern has it all. The suspenseful tale features well-drawn characters whose secrets are slowly revealed, leaving readers unsure of who can be believed or trusted. Brightwell's detailed descriptions of the grueling work of a Victorian housemaid offer many reasons to sympathize with Jane Wilbred, an orphan who has accepted a position in the Bentley home. As she struggles to figure out the politics of the household and keep up with her endless chores, she worries about who may know (or find out) about her mother's shameful past. Jane's employers and fellow servants are hiding secrets too, and they continually regard one another with suspicion. The author's use of dialogue and action to advance the story is highly effective. An omniscient narrator allows the tale to unfold from multiple points of view, with Jane as the main protagonist. Brightwell manages to reveal the secrets and interconnections among her characters without creating confusion for her audience, and the story remains suspenseful through the final pages. The ending is satisfying but open to discussion.Lantern will appeal to readers of historical fiction, suspense, and coming-of-age stories.-Sondra VanderPloeg, Tracy Memorial Library, New London, NH

Kirkus Reviews
Secrets and lies flourish in an unusual tale of upstairs/downstairs suspense, set in Victorian London. Part mystery, part social drama, Brightwell's debut is an engrossing period piece, thickly atmospheric in its evocation of England during its colonial heyday. Sixteen-year-old Jane Wilbred arrives from Devon to work as a maid in the Bentley household, having concealed the fact that her mother was a convicted murderer. Mrs. Bentley senior is ill and her son Robert and his wife Mina are visiting from Paris, to care for her. Jane, however, is not the only resident with secrets. The servants are cheating their mistress and behaving suspiciously. Mina is haunted by mysterious aspects of her first marriage, and when Robert's brother Henry dies on his way back from India, a curious young widow appears, claiming his estate yet without any clear proof that the pair were married. Poor, exhausted Jane, worked to the bone, is drawn into the deceptions upstairs, obliged to spy on the widow and deliver clandestine letters when Mina's history threatens to emerge. Brightwell deftly juxtaposes the parallel worlds of servants and masters and points out their curious interdependence. Convoluted plot threads are finally resolved as the widow makes good her escape; Mina's past rises up to claim her; and Jane is saved by the love of a good fellow servant. Slightly too much plot, but a fresh and capable first venture. Agent: Zoe Fishman/Lowenstein-Yost

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Product Details

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5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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Dark Lantern 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is down right boring, it's great to read before bed it puts you right to sleep, I began skimming pages to get past all the tedious one person dialogue that goes on in Minas head, the servants are a bit more interesting but it takes forever to get any movement in this boring boring boring book, and the plot well fingerprints or measuring ones head, wow how exciting in Victorian England. I guess all the exciting cases went to Sherlock Holmes. This is a bargain book for a reason, bought it on the discount table in my Barnes and Noble, the blurb made it sound exciting the cover too just goes to show you can't judge a book by it's cover, ha!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
denverbroncosgirl More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book immensely. Wonderfully developed characters, good story. I did not, however, like the ending. The ending was just a bit depressing. I will definitely read more books by this author.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1893 London, housemaid Jane Wilbred obtains a position with the Bentley family by forging a glowing letter of reference and concealing that she is the daughter of an infamous murderer. Jane¿s new home at thirty-two Cursitor Road is filled with plenty of shenanigans and intrigue since the matriarch is dying however the newcomer plans to be a mouse hiding as much as possible underneath the stairs and even from her peers. There is a harsh rivalry upstairs between the two sisters-in-laws. The older brother Henry¿s wife claims her spouse died in a drowning incident while en route to England after years in Bombay no one knows this widow, a total stranger. The younger brother Robert¿s wife Mina Bentley plans to be the matriarch and objects to the outsider or returning to Paris where she and Robert lived for several years. Robert ignores the war between the sisters-in-law as his interest lies with gaining official police recognition of the science of body metrics, anthropometry. He tests his theory when the house is robbed by an intruder claiming to be him, but soon spins into something deadlier. --- This is an excellent Victorian mystery as Jane steals the show with her astute observations honed by being a maid although she is very young. The story line is fast-paced once the robbery occurs and Robert begins his inquiry. Fans of historical mysteries will enjoy THE DARK LANTERN as this is a very bright well written thriller starring a strong cast especially Jane. --- Harriet Klausner