Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Dark Lantern-Gerri Brightwell

The Dark Lantern
Gerri Brightwell
Crown, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307395344

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