The Solitary House by Lynn Shepherd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was an interesting blend of literary homage, mystery and historical fiction; based in part on The Woman in White and Bleak House, with a little Sherlock Holmes and real-life Dickens for seasoning, The Solitary House is one of the few stand-alones that left me wanting a sequel.
There are two mysteries here, one pertaining to a missing daughter/possibly dead granddaughter and one dealing with anonymous threats made to a Very Important Person. Charles Maddox, formerly of the Detective, is hired to figure out the answers; his travels through Dickensian London are properly atmospheric and interesting. The fog and stench are almost characters in themselves, and the people we meet, while stereotypical to anyone familiar with the literature of that era, feel real. There's an interesting needle at the difference between Dickens' writing and Austen's, a knowing wink to readers of the previous novel (which is on my To Buy/To Read list now).
The plot twist took me by surprise, but the ultimate answer I'd guessed far earlier. That something obvious can still surprise in some way is always a good sign! And the complete cliff-hanger at the end? I know there's a third book and don't know if it's also a stand-alone or if it will somehow continue the Maddox story. To be honest, either would work for me.
One small quibble: I didn't need her to reference P.D. James' The Maul and the Pear Tree (which, to be honest, is a rather coded reference but still... we get that this is an omniscient author from today and this insertion jarred a little).
ARC provided by publisher.