I made the mistake of reading the first couple of pages of this novel as soon as it arrived in the mail--a mistake, because I could not tear myself away from it for the next eight hours.
Lynn Shepherd has crafted a superb mystery, which will sweep you back through time, into the fog-bound streets of mid-Victorian London. From the outwardly-respectable barrister's chambers of Lincoln's Inn Fields to the gin-soaked stews of Seven Dials, she conducts her readers on a tour that is as vivid as it is detailed. "The Solitary House" is not merely a mystery that has been plopped willy-nilly into a pseudo-period setting. Ms Shepherd is so steeped in both the history and the literature of 19th-Century London that her exceptionally well-written novel possesses an authenticity that is rare in mysteries nowadays.
I especially enjoyed the manner in which Ms Shepherd's narrative crossed paths with that of Charles Dickens in "Bleak House" (my favourite Dickens novel). The detective, Charles Maddox, in fact, is sent on his investigation by Edward Tulkinghorn, the hardhearted attorney of "Bleak House" (but I shall say no more in order not to spoil it for you). The narrative is so rich with imagery that evokes Dickens that you may very well get your copy of "Bleak House" off the shelf to reread, not only because Dickens' novel becomes more enjoyable with each reading, but also because you will then appreciate Ms Shepherd's allusions fully. Moreover, her twists and turns of plot are guaranteed to keep you reading until the end, which should reward all readers generously, and delight lovers of 19th-century literature absolutely.