Edmund Whitty, a London newspaper correspondent who can usually be counted upon for crisp and lurid copy, has fallen upon lean times. After his triumphant exposé of a notorious serial killer, he has inexplicably lost his knack for sensational reporting. Broke and desperate, he seizes upon a generous offer from a mysterious American to discredit a quack psychic. But how, he ends up wondering uneasily, does the psychic know so much about a scandal involving Whitty’s late brother?|
When the psychic is brutally murdered, Whitty finds himself accused of the crime and thrown into Milbank prison, the most bizarre institution of its kind in England. Help comes unexpectedly from “the Captain,” a gangster not known for charity work. To save his own skin, Whitty must find the men responsible for the disappearance of the Captain’s young niece, Eliza.
Whitty’s search takes him to Oxford, where he meets the brilliant and eccentric Reverend William Boltbyn, a renowned children’s author who delights in playing croquet, devising elaborate stories, and taking artistic photographs of little girls. There he uncovers a looking-glass world, the dark side of Victoriana, and the murder of innocence.
John MacLachlan Gray, who evoked “the mean streets and byways of 1852 London with a skill worthy of Dickens” (Publishers Weekly) in The Fiend in Human, spins an even more irresistible tale of dark secrets behind the facade of Victorian respectability.