Last year my hand was seized by an omniscient narrator, and she pulled me back into nineteenth century London and she showed me such dark and wonderful things. And now she has seized my hand again, and shown things that are even more extraordinary.
We arrived in a dark, cold London street, and straight away I saw a familiar figure. Charles Maddox, the detective who had been pulled into an investigation that had uncovered dark goings-on at Tom-all-Alone’s. He was a little older, and a little wiser after all that he had experienced, but he still had much to learn.
Charles had been summoned by Sir Percy Shelley, the son of a famous poet and a celebrated author. He was asked by Sir Percy and his formidable wife, Jane, to assist with sensitive matter. Someone had threatened to publish papers that would show the poet in a less than favourable light, undermining their efforts to elevate his reputation. Charles was to negotiate to buy those papers.
He suspected that matters were complex, more troubling, than the Shelley’s were telling him. And he was right.
His meeting with a remarkable women – Claire Clairmont, who famously had a love affair with Lord Byron, and bore him a child – confirmed his suspicions.
But he had to go on. Because his great-uncle, who had been a great detective until his mind and body began to fail him, had crossed paths with the Shelleys years before. He wouldn’t speak of it, he tried to stop Charles, but his efforts only made Charles more determined to uncover the truth.
I saw a tangled story unfold. A story that was spun around real lives, real facts, and filled the gaps with details that were utterly believable.
I watched Charles as he found his way through a complicated web of lies and deceit, jealousy and rivalry, fear and self-interest. He uncovered truths that were dreadful, but horribly believable. I looked over his shoulder as he read letters, documents, and his great-uncle’s records. And I followed him home, and saw that some things had changed and some things had remained the same in his unorthodox household.
I was steered perfectly, sometimes guided, sometimes left to watch, and sometimes struck by an acute observation. By someone who had knowledge, understanding, and the clearsightedness that a little distance brings.
I was wrapped up in rich prose that brought times, places and people to life. In a story that was dark but so very, very vivid.
I turned the pages quickly, because I was fascinated, and because I needed to find answers to so many questions. Though I found that I had to pause from time to time, to try to understand complex characters, to consider difficult situations, to ponder many things that were not what they first seemed.
Now I have turned the last page, now I have answers but I am still asking more questions.