England in the latter half of the 19th century. The novel begins conventionally enough with orphaned brother and sister James and Charlotte living in Yorkshire. James decides to go to London to follow his vocation as a writer and shares a house with the charismatic socialite Christopher. After a surprise or two in the plot, the narrative suddenly enters the fantastical when they are both viciously attacked by a vampire outside the house of Oscar Wilde.
The elite Aegolius Club is the vampires’ gentleman’s club in London, but they have a group of lower-class rivals in the east of the city. Part of the story is told through the diaries and papers of Augustus Mould – a non-vampire (one of the so-called Quick) who is employed by the Aegolius to conduct research into elements of vampire life. James survives the attack, and Charlotte comes to London to find out what has happened to her brother – just as the Aegolius and their rivals gear up for a confrontation.
This is Lauren Owen’s first novel, but it a wholly beguiling and wonderfully narrated story. It can be difficult to make Gothic and macabre stories like this appear plausible for obvious reasons, but because of the quality of the writing it is an absorbing and wholly engaging novel.