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Ada CalhounBayard reinvigorates historical fiction, rendering the 19th century as if he'd witnessed it firsthand. He employs words like "caoutchouc," "meerschaums" and "anapestic" as fluently as he uses Gothic tropes. Landor is attacked in the dark woods and in a dark closet. Messengers drive phaetons. There's black magic, phrenology, a profusion of ghosts, even a boat trip through torch-lit mist. But none of it seems musty. Bayard does what all those ads for historical tourist destinations promise: as Landor says at death's door, "the past comes on with all the force of the present."
— The New York Times