Kept: A Victorian Mystery
A young landowner is thrown from his horse and killed. His widow, already unbalanced from the loss of their child, is whisked out of society and into the care of a guardian with a passion for collecting. A debt collector entangles a socially prominent lawyer as well as a destitute grocer in his schemes, while a housemaid at the guardian’s home in the country follows the former footman to London. Although seemingly unrelated, these characters all converge at the end, and if you think this sounds Dickensian, Taylor acknowledges the influence of Dickens and other Victorian authors in his end notes.
Kept is a densely plotted book that at times requires patience as when chapters begin with new sets of characters, plunging into their stories with little background. Keeping up with the debt collector’s machinations required concentration, but such is the case in any great 19th century novel. Rather than be a pastiche of those books, Kept pays homage to them. Taylor is a worthy successor to those he honors, and although some plot strands are resolved less than satisfactorily, this remains a book to settle in with and savor.