The Solitary House
Delacorte, May 1 2012, $26.00
In 1850 London, powerful sly lawyer Edward Tulkinghorn hires Metropolitan Police Officer Charles Maddox to uncover the identity of a nasty author of acrimonious writings aimed at merchant banker Sir Julius Cremorne and to insure the notes end. Charles is stunned by his sudden good fortune as ever since his superior Bucket fired him for insubordination he has struggled to eke out a living.
To help him on his inquiry Charles turns to his brilliant but increasingly demented Great Uncle Maddox the “thief taker” on what they each assume will be an easy case. Instead as he stumbles along a conspiracy of wealth, Charles is unaware that the diabolical Edward has a hidden agenda.
Paying homage to Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, Lynn Shepherd writes a delightful atmospheric mid nineteenth century thriller. The cast makes the suspense work as readers will empathize with a frustrated Maddox struggling with his deteriorating mind and appreciate his mentoring relationship with his nephew. Tulkinghorn is a brilliant shadowy manipulator as he has several of the players including his hired detective (and readers wanting to know what game he plays) dangling from strings. With an anonymous narrator adding a sense of doom, fans will enjoy this taut tale as even a young Ripper makes an appearance.