Tom-All-Alone’s was one of the poorest, dirtiest, most squalid slums in 19th century London. Tom- All- Alone’s (The Solitary House in the US and Canada edition, May 1st 2012) is the title Lynn Shepherd has chosen for her second novel.
It is a gripping noir murder mystery set in foggy Victorian London, in which the characters of Dickens’s Bleak House and Lynn Shepherd’s own creatures come to interact . This is Lynn Shepherd’s second tribute to a great British writer. Her succesful debut book was set , in fact, in one of Jane Austen’s Regency novels and titled, Murder at Mansfield Park (published in the UK, the US and in Spain). (My review on My Jane Austen Book Club)
Young Charles is hired by Mr Tulkinghorn (the formidabile lawyer of Bleak House) to investigate on a series of threatening anonymous letters sent to an eminent banker, Sir Julius Cremorne, and other illustrious characters in London. Looking for the man who may have sent those letters and also for the reason of the blackmailing, Charles Maddox walks through the most dangerous areas of London, full of drinking dens, thieves, violent people and prostitutes: the London Dickens knew so well, but could only hint at. Bloody sicars and their murders, sexual depravity and vulgar language were to be hidden behind the hypocritical facade of moral respectability. It was the time of hypocrisy and dualism also Stevenson protrayed in his Jekyll and Hyde or Wilde in Dorian’s Gray only apparent perfect beauty.
Lynn Shepherd, free of course from any puritan Victorian influence, makes all the terrifying, macabre, sinister details of the reality of the slums come into the foreground without mitigation. The result is an intriguing investigation, a well built mystery story filled with Dickensean moments , but with a stronger, more realistic portrayal of the social and moral degradation of the time. It’s a world where girls of twelve worked as prostitutes, unwanted babies are carelessly disposed of and those who pose a threat to great men are eliminated without remorse.
|BBC Bleak House - 2005|
The story of young Charles Maddox investigating and the story of Bleak House with its characters run parallel at first, then they intersect with one another and culminate into an unexpected, surprising finale. If you’ve read Bleak House you’ll recognize inspector Bucket, Lady Deadlock, Mr Tulkinghorn, Mr Jarvis, Clara and Hester, among others. But if you haven’t, no problem. You’ll be able to fully enjoy Lynn Shepherd’s new murder mystery, as an awesome detective story set in Victorian London with all its old-fashioned, dark fascination.
Watch this video featuring author Lynn Shepherd. It's an interesting presentation of Tom All Alone's in the places the story takes place, with some excerpts from the novel read by Colin Day.
Thanks to Lynn Shepherd and her UK publisher, Corsair, for granting me a review copy of the novel