1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Alarmed, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine London that greets her, she uncovers a hidden, supernatural city populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of the exclusive, secretive Aegolius Club, whose predatory members include the most ambitious, and most bloodthirsty, men in England.
I raced through this book in two days. I read it before going to work, during my breaks, during my lunch, after work. When I wasn't reading it, I thought about it. Do yourself a favor - settle into the first 102 pages, which are lyrical, sumptuously gothic, and contain a wistful love story. It is slower paced than the rest of the book, but nevertheless immersed me into the character of James and the Victorian London setting. Let the novel's subtle seduction work on you ... and then, prepare yourself for a thrilling pageturner of a ride. Believe me, you won't even have time to breathe. As subtle and gentlemanly as the first 100 pages are, the next 400 or so will escalate into true literary horror - until the very last breathless page, which left me in utter shock.
SPOILER - I only read the synopsis and the blurbs before deciding to read this book so I had no idea what was in store for me, only that I was open to whatever lay inside. James's and Christopher's secret love affair is beautifully rendered. I had to wonder though, whether the author was using vampirism as a metaphor for homosexual love in the Victorian era. As a child, James is accidentally locked into a secret hideaway in the library (closet-like), which again becomes significant much later on. James and Christopher's relationship is so shameful, they do not even say what they are out loud. Similarly, the word "vampire" is mentioned perhaps three times within the entire 523 pages and multiple characters take pains not to say it, as though to just to acknowledge vampires' existence is taboo. There is a theme of shameful secrets to be kept hidden, as well as never vocalized, linking homosexuality and vampirism. Both are forced to stay "in the closet" even until the end.