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."
From the Hardcover edition.
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
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