Winter of Despair (A Gaslight Mystery)

Written by Cora Harrison
Review by Ilysa Magnus

Set in 1853 in London, this second in the Gaslight series again features Wilkie Collins as narrator and Charles Dickens as all-around detective, great novelist and smart aleck.

An artist has been discovered in his studio with his throat slashed. Around his body lay fragments of one of his paintings entitled A Winter of Despair. Collins recognizes the artist/victim as Edwin Milton-Hayes, one of his brother Charley’s artist friends, and an anticipated attendee at Wilkie’s mother’s upcoming dinner party. But why has he been murdered? What secrets was the murderer attempting to hide by cutting up a painting? And why was the artist painting a series of paintings with faceless people?

When Charley becomes the focus of suspicion and begins to act strangely, Wilkie and Dickens need to work quickly, piecing together the puzzle parts before he is arrested for murder.

As a Harrison aficionada, I looked forward to this second in the series. Harrison deftly taps into the heart and soul of Victorian London and the strata of society – from the slums to the studios of Pre-Raphaelite painters. For some reason though, this story seemed too forced and the characters underdeveloped.