The Dark Lantern
Brightwell has fashioned a multilayered, Upstairs Downstairs-type mystery that drew me in completely. When I finally paused to reflect, I realized it had everything but the kitchen sink. To wit: a young servant girl moves from the country to London and hides her past from her new employers; the matriarch of this household is on her deathbed while her daughter-in-law longs to return to Paris; and her son is intent on proving that anthropometry is a superior method to fingerprinting in identifying criminals. One more thing—when the eldest son is expected to return from India, what the family gets instead is a woman claiming to be his widow and the news that he has drowned at sea.
The author deftly weaves together multiple plot strands—although on the surface there is no central mystery, there are several smaller ones that come together quite credibly at the end. Characters are unique and engaging, with Jane, the servant girl with the secret, being the most sympathetic. Her experience “downstairs” is rendered with such realism as to make me devoutly wish she would get the happy ending she deserved. Is her gentleman caller too good to be true? Other plotlines are equally engrossing. Even knowing that fingerprinting wins out over anthropometry, I was fascinated by Robert Bentley’s utter devotion to the cause. And now this review has everything in it but the kitchen sink. So many reasons to enjoy this book.