The Dark Lantern

The Dark Lantern

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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307395351
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 01/06/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

GERRI BRIGHTWELL was born in England. She has a doctorate in literature from the University of Minnesota.

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Dark Lantern 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 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!!
ccourtland on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another smart Victorian novel that does not disappoint. Brightwell craftily depicts Victorian London from behind the draped curtains of middle-class society. This is a book that holds actual thematic weight and not just a promising plot. Through the weaving and interaction of characters the class line is drawn, but also crossed, which gives the story a classical feel and is probably due to the author¿s schooled background in literature studies. Even though class separates the characters, secrets connect them, which places them all on a similar level of sorts. This idea had me thinking long after the story was finished and for that gem, I think it is intelligent and worth the reading time invested. I am a bit surprised this novel does not have higher ratings on other sites.The story begins with Jane and although she remains a primary focus, Mina emerges to equal attention. This is an interesting topic for discussion, but had me asking for a moment, `Is this Jane or Mina¿s story?¿ There was a slight shift in importance when I believe the character¿s story (Mina) could have been told without lessening the emphasis on the heroine Jane. Also as a reader, I found myself a tad cheated when it came to Sarah. I was taken in by the description of her and I kept waiting for this wilily maid to play a bigger role, but she never did. I was baited on the build up and was kicked out in the cold when her fate was so quickly swept a side.
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in London in 1893, the story centers around the Bentleys and their servants. Robert Bentley is involved in the study of anthropometry, the study of identifying criminals by their measurements. His wife, Mina, struggles to escape from her past. They are joined by the supposed widow of Robert¿s brother, Henry, drowned at sea. In addition, there are the servants: Cartwright, the butler; Mrs. Johnson, the cook; Elsie, the scullery maid; Sarah, the shifty first housemaid; and Jane, the second housemaid. The novel opens when Jane arrives in London, trying to escape the secrets that she, too, harbors. A few days after her arrival, a burglar breaks into the Bentley home and rifles around in the study, triggering a series of events that are shrouded in mystery.I have mixed feelings about this book. Although the premise is intriguing, I thought that this book isn¿t quite as well-thought-out as it might have been. There are way too many things in Mina¿s past that are merely hinted at; same thing goes for the widow and Jane. There¿s not much in terms of explaining each character¿s motives, and certain characters¿ manipulation of others was a little too overt. I thought the comparison between anthropometry and fingerprinting was absolutely fascinating, however. And the ambience of the novel was deliciously chilling. But at the same time, I thought that the relationship between the Bentleys and their servants was a little too unrealistic. Yes, there probably was a lot of distrust on both sides, but not, I imagine, to the extent that the Bentleys distrust their servants here. Also, I thought the ending was a little half-baked; too many loose threads. Other than that, though, the book is quite convincing as an historical period piece, in an era where class distinction was quite rigidly defined.
shootingstarr7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I discovered The Dark Lantern through a post on Salon, recommending some historical fiction for the summer.In 1893, Jane Wilbred moves from her position as a maid to a clergyman's family in the country to join the staff of the Bentley family in London. Jane quickly learns that the family has many secrets, and she has secrets of her own to protect. It is, of course, only a matter of time until the webs of secrets and deceit are untangled into the conclusion.I enjoyed the book, but I didn't love it. I felt like the element of mystery was too forced. And in a lot of ways, it had some similar themes to Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, and The Dark Lantern doesn't really stand up to the comparison. The climax didn't match the build-up to it. It was as though Brightwell expended much of her energy early on and ran out of steam when it came time to unveil the secrets. And no one was truly punished for their deceit. But it was a well-written book, and if I hadn't read Fingersmith just a few months ago, I probably would have enjoyed this book a lot more. And I look forward to Brightwell's future offerings; there is quite a bit of potential in her work.
Laurenbdavis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a lovely read. Perfect for a summer afternoon. Well-paced, good characterization, thoroughly engaging, clean direct prose, wonderfully intriguing. I read it in two sittings and consider it time well spent. Enjoy.
SilversReviews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book, but am confused by the ending...was Mrs. Bently the woman in the end who became the assistant to the doctor?And the supposed widow of Henry Bently....did she go back to India?And Jane and Teddy did get together then?
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Dark Lantern is set in Victorian London. Its central focus is the Bentley family, especially Robert and Mina Bentley, who are basically sitting around waiting for Robert's mother to pass away. Robert and his brother Henry will be sharing quite an inheritance, and this is something that Robert's wife Mina is looking forward to. Robert is a leading proponent of anthropometry for identifying criminals at a time when fingerprinting is also being bandied about as an identification tool. Aside from these people, there are the downstairs contingent: the servants, cook, scullery, butler, and two housemaids. The story begins with Jane's arrival; she is already trying to live down her past, and is taken in by Mina as second housemaid. She finds herself in a household where nothing feels right and is put into a helpless situation from the outset from more than one of the inhabitants. There's also a widow, a newcomer, who says she was married to Robert's brother before the ship he was on sank and killed him. Throughout the story, it seems that there are hidden pasts and dark secrets just waiting to be uncovered.I am a true fan of period pieces, especially fiction set in the Victorian-period, but I have to say that this was just not a book I could get that involved with. The characters were all just a bit flat, and frankly, I could have cared less about any of them. The plot moved very slow and the author really didn't give a chance for any one storyline to develop with any depth. When the ending came, I was just relieved to have finished the suspense, too many loose ends and by that time I just didn't care any more. Others may really like it, but I just wasn't that into it.Recommend it? I don't know... I suppose with the number of 4/5 star reader reviews at Amazon someone might enjoy this book, but it just wasn't for me.
punxsygal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A house of secrets. Follow the intrigues of upstairs and down stairs in this dark Victorian mystery. And we think we have air pollution in our cities!
picardyrose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read it, I think I enjoyed it, yet now less than three months later I have no recollection of it.
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