Author Gerri Brightwell
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 andelusive 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 andransacks 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.
GEMS: Another smart Victorian novel that does not disappoint. Brightwell craftily depicts Victorian London from behind the draped curtains of middle-class society. This is a book that holds actual thematic weight and not just a promising plot. Through the weaving and interaction of characters the class line is drawn, but also crossed, which gives the story a classical feel and is probably due to the author’s schooled background in literature studies. Even though class separates the characters, secrets connect them, which places them all on a similar level of sorts. This idea had me thinking long after the story was finished and for that gem, I think it is intelligent and worth the reading time invested. I am a bit surprised this novel does not have higher ratings on other sites.
FLAWS: The story begins with Jane and although she remains a primary focus, Mina emerges to equal attention. This is an interesting topic for discussion, but had me asking for a moment, ‘Is this Jane or Mina’s story?’ There was a slight shift in importance when I believe the character’s story (Mina) could have been told without lessening the emphasis on the heroine Jane. Also as a reader, I found myself a tad cheated when it came to Sarah. I was taken in by the description of her and I kept waiting for this wilily maid to play a bigger role, but she never did. I was baited on the build up and was kicked out in the cold when her fate was so quickly swept a side.