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The Crack Magazine


The House on Vesper Sands

Paraic O’Donnell, W&N

The second novel from this Irish author begins with a deliciously dark chapter. We’re in Victorian London and a young seamstress arrives at a grand house in Mayfair. She is shown to the top floor where she ensconces herself alone in a room. But instead of carrying out her requested duties she unlocks a safe to get at some mysterious vials within, before hurling herself from the window onto the street below. Oh – it also turns out that she has stitched a mysterious message into her own skin. And so begins a gothic tale in which we’re introduced to Gideon Bliss, a young divinity student who arrives in London at the behest of his benefactor uncle. Unfortunately the uncle is missing and Bliss has to bed down for the night in a church where he encounters a young woman who appears to be in the grip of the “Spiriters”, a shadowy group who are the talk of the cheaper dailies. Stir into the mix a doughty inspector, an intrepid female journalist and a whole bunch of ne’er-do-wells and you’ve got a vivid page-turner with a satisfying pay-off.