Genre:Fiction, Historical, Victorian
From Random House:
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.
This book portrayed Victorian England well. The relationships between the servants themselves and their interactions with their employers conveyed what daily household life may have been like in Victorian England. Jane, the main narrator/point of view of the story is newly arrived to London from the country. She is the second house maid and therefore responsible for most of the scutwork "upstairs", such as cleaning and lighting the fireplaces, and the majority of the cleaning. Unfortunately, she is also taken advantage of quite often.
The attitudes of the Master and Mistress of the house towards their staff is also described very well throughout the book. All of these unspoken feelings and thoughts between the characters only heightens the suspicious elements of the story. "Is the maid spying on me or going through my things? What does she know? Who is the gentleman that she meets on her half day off?" The fact that almost every character has secrets to hide only adds to the paranoia and creates tension.
This book felt like a detective novel, and kept me guessing until the end. It was a quick enjoyable read with a few surprises thrown in at the end. The author also described a Victorian household and its workings extremely well. I know I probably would have been a second maid.
My Rating: 4/5