Beverly Swerling’s latest work is a gripping dual-period novel that is partly a ghost story. Events in Tudor London affect the modern-day life of Annie Kendall, an architectural historian and recovering alcoholic struggling to reclaim her life. A job opportunity in London represents a chance to start over. But the apartment she rents in Bristol House has a small back room that is apparently haunted. Or is Annie hallucinating? She herself is not sure at first if the Carthusian monk who speaks to her is in any sense real. If he is, what does he want from her?
The situation may remind the reader of novels by Stephen King and others, but the vivid evocation of the past and Swerling’s ability to create fully believable characters make the story fresh and absorbing. Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell figure in the novel, as does a mysterious personage known as the Jew of Holbern. First-person narratives evoke a sense of terror in Tudor London that is completely convincing. Religious intolerance and brutality perpetrated in the distant and more recent past form a thread binding the two parts of the book together.
I particularly enjoyed the characters’ reflections on the nature of time. Some mysteries are solved in the course of the book, but we are left with greater ones to ponder.