A Buzzfeed Best Book of the Month
From popular historical fiction author David Liss (A Conspiracy of Paper) comes the tale of a clueless young man embroiled in a deadly supernatural mystery in Victorian London. Rooted in strange conspiracies and secret societies, this absurdist comedic romp combines strange bedfellows with murderous creatures, resulting in an unexpectedly delightful consequences.
“Intricate plotting, exquisite pacing, crackling suspense, and fascinating historical rabbit hole revelations.”
Thomas’s problems are more serious than those of a typical young Victorian gentleman. His elder brother may be sabotaging the family’s bank. His childhood friend has died under mysterious circumstances. Far worse, leaves are sprouting on Thomas’s skin. Perhaps it is all the fault of the long-rumored “Peculiarities” lurking in London’s grey fog?
Proper society scoffs at the notion of magic, even as it seeps into their buildings, transfiguring the rich and poor alike. If Thomas is going to save the family business—and stop turning into a tree—he’ll need help from some rather improper companions. Desperate for counsel, he seeks the advice of a lycanthropic medium and London’s unacceptable occult society, including a strange fellow named Aleister Crowley.
Edgar winner Liss (A Conspiracy of Paper) isn't at his best in this lackluster alternate history set in 1899 London. Thomas Thresher was forced by his father, Samuel, to leave his mathematics studies at Cambridge prematurely. Following Samuel's death, Thomas's older brother, Walter, takes over running the family bank and Thomas is compelled to join as a junior clerk. Meanwhile, the city is plagued by paranormal developments dubbed the Peculiarities: sudden, heavy fogs descend on the streets; people's bodies undergo strange transformations; and women give birth to litters of rabbits. Walter insists Thomas marry Esther Feldstein, the daughter of a businessman Walter hopes to partner with, even as Thomas notices leaves sprouting from his own skin. Then, after Thomas discovers that their bank has been buying up debts of practicing magicians among them William Butler Yeats but not seeking to collect money owed, he and Esther investigate. The historical figures Liss employs aren't treated well, but the biggest drawback here is the absence of suspense or even urgency in the face of a threat to all human life. Gaslamp fantasy fans will be disappointed.)