These long short stories, pieced together to create a novel, start off strong and remain consistently engaging. Faraday has a strong command of language and is a solid storyteller. The atmosphere feels authentically Victorian, despite a possible anachronism or two. For instance, one of the stories has a character menaced by a perceived vampire, but the novel is set ten years before Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” was published. Undoubtedly, there were popular Victorian legends before that, but it would have helped if the main character could have referred to one so the reader isn’t left wondering. After all, the character talks of Wilkie Collins and Edgar Allan Poe. A couple of the stories end with a limp last couple of lines, disappointing since the stories themselves are consistently riveting. In one story, the story shifts too quickly from Pearce being thoroughly focused on a missing dog to three sentences later forgetting the dog and tracking down a possible curse. The abrupt shift is jarring. And finally, in Scotland, Pearce and Cal have a falling out that in real life would be all but impossible to overcome. I’m all for misunderstandings and mistakes and character imperfections, but I greatly dislike when an author makes their main character do something unreasonable and unforgiveable for no apparent reason other than to create “conflict” in the story or relationship. Still, all that said, I found the book beautifully written. It’s accessible and comfortable and thoroughly compelling despite its mostly minor flaws. The breakup with Theo is handled with maturity and pathos. And, spoiler alert, the reunion of Cal and Pearce is lovely. Jess Faraday is an author I will be following.
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