I love a Victorian mystery but The House on Vesper Sands wowed me. The dialogue is pitch-perfect and at times outright hilarious. Add a creepy church, missing urchins, a ghostly woman, a crumbling mansion, and a villain of perfect Oscar Wilde proportions. This is a great, fun, breathtaking read. Recommended By Kathi K., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
London, 1893: high up in a house on a dark, snowy night, a lone seamstress stands by a window. So begins the swirling, serpentine world of Paraic O'Donnell's Victorian-inspired mystery, the story of a city cloaked in shadow, but burning with questions: why does the seamstress jump from the window? Why is a cryptic message stitched into her skin? And how is she connected to a rash of missing girls, all of whom seem to have disappeared under similar circumstances?
On the case is Inspector Cutter, a detective as sharp and committed to his work as he is wryly hilarious. Gideon Bliss, a Cambridge dropout in love with one of the missing girls, stumbles into a role as Cutter's sidekick. And clever young journalist Octavia Hillingdon sees the case as a chance to tell a story that matters — despite her employer's preference that she stick to a women's society column. As Inspector Cutter peels back the mystery layer by layer, he leads them all, at last, to the secrets that lie hidden at the house on Vesper Sands.
By turns smart, surprising, and impossible to put down, The House on Vesper Sands offers a glimpse into the strange undertow of late nineteenth-century London and the secrets we all hold inside us.
"Stellar....Making smart use of classic gothic imagery, O'Donnell excels at concocting eerie scenes. Yet he's also very funny, particularly in exchanges between the profane Cutter and the verbose but perceptive Bliss....[A] marvelous feat." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Author O'Donnell carefully unspools the gothic creepiness of his story, teasing the reader with tidbits of information....An intriguing, unexpected gothic mashup with elements of Dorothy Sayers, Wilkie Collins, and Josephine Tey." Kirkus Reviews
"The House on Vesper Sands manages to do a hundred marvelous things at once: funny, eerie, tender, haunting and unsettling, smokily atmospheric, and fantastically enjoyable." Helen MacDonald, author of Vesper Flights
"The most vivid and compelling portrait of late Victorian London since The Crimson Petal and the White." Sarah Perry, author of Melmoth
"Riveting....Positively bursts with inventiveness." Benjamin Dreyer, author of Dreyer's English
"Diabolical and delicious, this is the most enjoyable mystery I’ve read in years." Sandra Newman, author of The Heavens
"Chilling....an atmospheric mystery that casts a keen eye on power imbalances and gender inequality." Foreword Reviews
"[It's]not a Sherlock Holmes mystery, but Paraic O'Donnell's sophomore effort is the next best thing....O'Donnell brings his story's humor and darker themes into richly rewarding alignment." Shelf Awareness
"Dickens is whirling enviously in his grave....Read by a fire on a cold winter evening." The Irish Times
About the Author
Paraic O'Donnell's essays and reviews have appeared in The Guardian, The Spectator, The Irish Times and elsewhere. His first novel, The Maker of Swans, was named the Amazon Rising Stars Debut and was shortlisted for the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards.