3.5 out of 5 stars
On a bitterly cold night, three seemingly unconnected events happen. Lord Strythe who is being watched by Octavia Hillingdon who thinks she is onto a story, vanishes into the night. In his home, a seamstress who is there to make alterations to a finely crafted gown is locked into the attic room to carry out her duties. She has been careful to disguise her pain in front of the butler from the words sewn into her own flesh, but she climbs through the window onto the sill before turning and jumping. That same night, Gideon Bliss seeks shelter from the snow in a Soho church, where he finds Angie Tatton, a former love of his, lying before the altar. In her delirium, he hears snatches of phrases about black air and Spiriters before he is knocked out. When he comes to she is no longer there.
In the cold light of day, Inspector Cutter of Scotland Yard begins his investigation into the suspicious death of Eleanor Tull and the disappearance of Angie Tatton. Gideon Bliss offers to help given his personal connection and Cutter is reluctant at first, but eventually relents. As they start to find out more about the people affected, they hear rumours of a shadowy group of men that may be the Spiriters. Octavia Hillingdon’s own research for her paper on the group who claim to be stealing souls is rapidly heading to a similar conclusion as Cutter and Bliss, that all these threads lead to the mysterious house on Vesper Sands
I must admit that I am not the biggest fan of these Victorian Gothic melodramas, but this came highly recommended by Melissa Harrison, no less. And O’Donnell has done a pretty good job with this one. He captures the atmosphere of the places really well, the brooding and pervasive dampness of London fogs, the bleakness of the Kent coast in winter coupled with strong flawed characters and blended all those elements with a reasonable plot and a sprinkling of supernatural otherness that don’t undermine the plausibility of the story. I thought it was worth reading and if you have read an loved The Essex Serpent and The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock then this will be right up your darkened alley.