By Gaslight by Steven Price

By gaslight.   Steven Price

An epic novel of nearly 750 pages, it takes some time and dedication to finish this novel, perfect for holidays. It is swiftly paced with lots of twists and turns but perhaps a bit overly long.

This is a Victorian detective novel set in London around 1885 that grabs you from the start with the author’s wonderful atmospheric descriptions of London. The reader is instantly transported to that place and time, you can actually see, feel and taste the grime and soot of the fog enshrouded city.

Detective William Pinkerton, from America, is in the city to track down the notorious thief Edward Shade. William’s father was the famous detective, Allan Pinkerton, who looked for Shade for many years before he died without ever finding him. William is determined to find him, even enlisting the help of detectives from Scotland Yard.

This sweeping tale moves backwards and forwards through time and countries. It spans 5 decades and moves between London, the diamond mines of South Africa and to the battlefields of the Civil War.

Two characters hold a key to this mystery, Charlotte Reckitt and Adam Foole. In the first chapters William tracks down Charlotte who he thinks holds the key to Edward Shade but as he is chasing her she falls of a bridge. A few days later it is only her head that is found when it is dredged from the dark murky waters of the Thames. And so begins the mystery.

The novel is very well crafted, deeply researched and with a cast of rich characters.

It is a complex, fascinating 19th century crime  and it is literally not until the end that you find out who Adam Foole is and the reason why Allan Pinkerton was so keen to find him. It is certainly not what his son William thought or indeed what the reader thinks!

(Submitted on behalf of another library staff member).