Divided into three parts, the tale is narrated by two orphaned girls whose lives are inextricably linked. It begins in a grimy thieves kitchen in Borough, South London with 17-year-old orphan Susan Trinder. She has been raised by Mrs Sucksby, a cockney Ma Baker, in a household of fingersmiths (pickpockets), coiners and burglars. One evening Richard "Gentleman" Rivers, a handsome confidence man, arrives. He has an elaborate scheme to defraud Maud Lilly, a wealthy heiress. If Sue will help him she'll get a share of the "shine". Duly installed in the Lillys' country house as Maud's maid, Sue finds that her mistress is virtually a prisoner. Maud's eccentric Uncle Christopher, an obsessive collector of erotica (loosely modelled on Henry Spenser Ashbee) controls every aspect of her life. Slowly a curious intimacy develops between the two girls and as Gentleman's plans take shape, Sue begins to have doubts. The scheme is finally hatched but as Maud commences her narrative it suddenly becomes more than a tad difficult to tell quite who has double-crossed who. Waters' penchant for Byzantine plotting can get a bit exhausting but even at its densest moments--and remember this is smoggy London circa 1862--it remains mesmerising. A damning critique of Victorian moral and sexual hypocrisy, a gripping melodrama and a love story to boot, this book ingeniously reworks some truly classic themes.--Travis Elborough --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Buy it or borrow it - but do yourself a favour, and read it." -- Docklands and City of London Recorder
"Infuses Victorian melodrama with a refreshing, modern sensibility... the novel is a tremendous achievement." -- The Lady
A worthy, innovative, even subversive successor to the doorstoppers of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins -- TELEGRAPH
From the Back Cover
From the celebrated author of Tipping the Velvet and Affinity comes an extraordinary, ingenious tale of fraud, insanity and secrets.
London 1862. Sue Trinder, orphaned at birth, grows up among petty thieves - fingersmiths - under the rough but loving care of Mrs Sucksby and her 'family'. But from the moment she draws breath, Sue's fate is linked to that of another orphan growing up in a gloomy mansion not too many miles away.
'Sarah Waters is one of the best storytellers alive today . . .'
Matt Thorne, Independent on Sunday
'Intensely atmospheric, impeccably paced, and cunningly structured, this is that rarity in contemporary fiction: a deeply serious novel that is also a thumping great read'
Douglas Kennedy, Mail on Sunday
'There are always novels that you envy people for not yet having read, for the pleasure they still have to come. Well, this is one. Long, dark, twisted and satisfying, it's a fabulous piece of writing . . . an unforgettable experience'
Julie Myerson, Guardian
Winner of The CWA Ellis Peters Dagger for Historical Crime Fiction