The House on Vesper Sands
‘Ladies and gentlemen, the darkness is complete.’It is the winter of 1893, and in London the snow is falling.It is falling as Gideon Bliss seeks shelter in a Soho church, where he finds Angie Tatton lying before the altar. His one-time love is at death’s door, murmuring about brightness and black air, and about those she calls the Spiriters. In the morning she is gone.The snow is falling as a seamstress climbs onto a ledge above Mayfair, a mysterious message stitched into her own skin. It is falling as she steadies herself and closes her eyes.It is falling, too, as her employer, Lord Strythe, vanishes into the night, watched by Octavia Hillingdon, a restless society columnist who longs to uncover a story of real importance.She and Gideon will soon be drawn into the same mystery, each desperate to save Angie and find out the truth about Lord Strythe. Their paths will cross as the darkness gathers, and will lead them at last to what lies hidden at the house on Vesper Sands.

The House on Vesper Sands Details

TitleThe House on Vesper Sands
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 18th, 2018
PublisherWeidenfeld & Nicolson
ISBN-139781474600392
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fiction, Crime, Victorian

The House on Vesper Sands Review

  • Ova - Excuse My Reading
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 rounded to 4!Octavia is definitely a character you will not regret reading. I loved the atmosphere in the novel, it was like walking in the foggy streets of Victorian London. A Gothic mystery with supernatural elements and was a good tale, but somehow alongside the way my attention got chopped from the story, the pace slowed, the characters weren't as interesting as they were in the start. The ending picked up the tension and pace again. Maybe it was because the mysterious Lord Strythe wasn' 3.5 rounded to 4!Octavia is definitely a character you will not regret reading. I loved the atmosphere in the novel, it was like walking in the foggy streets of Victorian London. A Gothic mystery with supernatural elements and was a good tale, but somehow alongside the way my attention got chopped from the story, the pace slowed, the characters weren't as interesting as they were in the start. The ending picked up the tension and pace again. Maybe it was because the mysterious Lord Strythe wasn't around too much in the beginning. If only the action started a little bit earlier- still will be perfect for the fans of Wicked Cometh ! I would love to meet with Octavia again...
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  • Liz Barnsley
    January 1, 1970
    I’m on a right reading roll at the moment and nothing has captured my imagination quite as much as The House On Vesper Sands.Brilliantly immersive, descriptively pitch perfect with a hugely dynamic set of characters, this is one of those books you devour in short order, living it all the way. The era is captured in reading surround sound and the story itself is completely compelling…dark as you like and twice as delicious.The characters you’ll meet within the pages are all, every one of them, co I’m on a right reading roll at the moment and nothing has captured my imagination quite as much as The House On Vesper Sands.Brilliantly immersive, descriptively pitch perfect with a hugely dynamic set of characters, this is one of those books you devour in short order, living it all the way. The era is captured in reading surround sound and the story itself is completely compelling…dark as you like and twice as delicious.The characters you’ll meet within the pages are all, every one of them, convincingly portrayed and genuinely engaging -the dialogue is snappy and often laugh out loud funny which offsets the dastardly nature of the story unfolding to wonderful effect.I have to shout out to the dynamic duo of Gabe and, perhaps my favourite character in fiction for years, the indomitable Inspector Cutter. Also to Octavia, a woman ahead of her time, plus her oft frowned upon bicycle.I’m not giving anything else away though apart from saying that the emotional trauma of the finale almost undid me- luckily here I still am to tell you not to miss this one if you can possibly help it.An absolute joy to read. This is what it’s all about.HIGHLY  Recommended.
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  • Blair
    January 1, 1970
    The clocks have gone back and Halloween has passed – now it's officially winter, I have a craving for historical fiction. The House on Vesper Sands is a Victorian pastiche with a mystery at its heart and touches of the macabre – a bit like The Woman in Black spliced with a Dickens novel.The opening chapter is brilliantly captivating; I found it irresistible. Esther Tull, a seamstress, visits a grand house at night and is coldly received by a sneering butler. While she has official business at The clocks have gone back and Halloween has passed – now it's officially winter, I have a craving for historical fiction. The House on Vesper Sands is a Victorian pastiche with a mystery at its heart and touches of the macabre – a bit like The Woman in Black spliced with a Dickens novel.The opening chapter is brilliantly captivating; I found it irresistible. Esther Tull, a seamstress, visits a grand house at night and is coldly received by a sneering butler. While she has official business at the house, her real intentions are quite different. I had only been reading for a few minutes when I found myself completely caught up in Esther's narrative, hoping desperately that she would be able to carry out her plan, despite knowing nothing of the story behind it. The atmosphere is wonderful, too: as Esther steps into the street, O'Donnell perfectly captures the magic hush of snow falling at night.The bad news is that nothing else in the book is as good as that stunning prologue. The good news is that it's still a great yarn, absorbing and enjoyably frothy. We follow two characters – hapless student Gideon and cunning society columnist Octavia – as they each investigate a mystery, the threads of which eventually entwine. Young women are being kidnapped by a secretive group whose intentions are unclear; all London is whispering about the 'Spiriters'. And this is somehow linked to a shadowy figure named Lord Strythe and his sister's house on the Kent coast.The House on Vesper Sands reminded me a lot of The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters and its sequels. While it lacks the more overt, steampunk-style fantasy embellishments of Dahlquist's novels, this is a proper old-fashioned adventure that immerses the reader in a rich vision of Victorian London. It pits a couple of likeable, plucky characters against the machinations of a powerful cabal; there's a colourful supporting cast (with the imperious Inspector Cutter particularly standing out). I can also imagine this appealing to fans of Sarahs Perry and Waters, Susan Hill's Victorian ghost stories, and Laura Purcell.TinyLetter | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr
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  • Mairead Hearne (swirlandthread.com)
    January 1, 1970
    My Rating ~ 4.5* 'Ladies and gentlemen, the darkness is complete.' Looking for something exciting? Looking for something dark and mysterious? Well look no further.The House on Vesper Sands is the latest novel from Paraic O’ Donnell and is a perfectly pitched tale of suspense wrapped up in a shadowy cloak of darkness.Welcome to Vesper Sands, a gothic tale that will delight and mystify, that will enthrall and bewitch from the opening pages.Gideon Bliss arrives from Cambridge to meet up with his un My Rating ~ 4.5* 'Ladies and gentlemen, the darkness is complete.' Looking for something exciting? Looking for something dark and mysterious? Well look no further.The House on Vesper Sands is the latest novel from Paraic O’ Donnell and is a perfectly pitched tale of suspense wrapped up in a shadowy cloak of darkness.Welcome to Vesper Sands, a gothic tale that will delight and mystify, that will enthrall and bewitch from the opening pages.Gideon Bliss arrives from Cambridge to meet up with his uncle. Gideon’s parents tragically died when he was young and it was his uncle who paid for his education and upkeep. The year is 1893, it’s winter-time and the streets of London are dark and murky. Gideon, unable to locate his uncle, finds refuge in a local church and hears whimpering coming from the vicinity of the altar. Gideon is shocked to discover that it is Angie Tatton, a girl he once knew, a girl he once cared deeply for. Angie is clearly not well, dressed in scanty clothing and muttering about rather strange activities and a brightness. Next thing Gideon knows, it’s morning time and Angie Tatton has disappeared. In a blind panic he returns to the last known address he has for his uncle but with still no trace of the man, Gideon becomes acquainted with Inspector Cutter from Scotland Yard, who also resides at the same lodgings.Esther Tull is a seamstress and occasionally does some private work at a residence in Mayfair. Esther arrives this cold and snowy night on a mission. Esther is in great pain, yet her focus is clear and her intention is purposeful.A chain of events soon unfurl taking the reader on a eerie journey that captivates, entertains and compels.I am new to the writing of Paraic O’ Donnell and yes I am now a convert. I love a tale with an edge, one with a lurking and menacing premise. This book provides it in spades. The late 1800s was a time rife with the buzz of the occult, the seances and a desperate search for the afterlife. An atmosphere like this breeds the extremists, the true believers looking for something, looking for the unattainable.The House on Vesper Sands is packed full with a wonderful collection of characters, each one portrayed with their own little quirks and foibles. A Victorian Gothic novel, The House on Vesper Sands vividly takes the imagination on an ingenious and fantastical journey filled with incredible atmospheric imagery.I have to mention the beauty of the cover. It’s just striking and captures the essence of the book perfectly. It would make a gorgeous addition to any bookshelf and an equally wonderful gift.The House on Vesper Sands is just wonderful. It intrigues, it excites, it stirs up the imagination.But just don’t listen to me…here’s what others are saying“The most vivid and compelling portrait of late Victorian London since The Crimson Petal and the White” ~ Sarah Perry“Like the love child of Dickens and Conan Doyle, but funnier than both” ~ Liz Nugent“Dickens is whirling enviously in his grave. Read by a fire on a cold winter evening” ~ Irish Times
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  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    On a bitterly cold night, three seemingly unconnected events happen. Lord Strythe who is being watched by Octavia Hillingdon who thinks she is onto a story, vanishes into the night. In his home, a seamstress who is there to make alterations to a finely crafted gown is locked into the attic room to carry out her duties. She has been careful to disguise her pain in front of the butler from the words sewn into her own flesh, but she climbs through the window onto the sill before turning and jumping On a bitterly cold night, three seemingly unconnected events happen. Lord Strythe who is being watched by Octavia Hillingdon who thinks she is onto a story, vanishes into the night. In his home, a seamstress who is there to make alterations to a finely crafted gown is locked into the attic room to carry out her duties. She has been careful to disguise her pain in front of the butler from the words sewn into her own flesh, but she climbs through the window onto the sill before turning and jumping. That same night, Gideon Bliss seeks shelter from the snow in a Soho church, where he finds Angie Tatton, a former love of his, lying before the altar. In her delirium, he hears snatches of phrases about black air and Spiriters before he is knocked out. When he comes to she is no longer there.In the cold light of day, Inspector Cutter of Scotland Yard begins his investigation into the suspicious death of Eleanor Tull and the disappearance of Angie Tatton. Gideon Bliss offers to help given his personal connection and Cutter is reluctant at first, but eventually relents. As they start to find out more about the people affected, they hear rumours of a shadowy group of men that may be the Spiriters. Octavia Hillingdon’s own research for her paper on the group who claim to be stealing souls is rapidly heading to a similar conclusion as Cutter and Bliss, that all these threads lead to the mysterious house on Vesper SandsI must admit that I am not the biggest fan of these Victorian Gothic melodramas, but this came highly recommended by Melissa Harrison, no less. And O’Donnell has done a pretty good job with this one. He captures the atmosphere of the places really well, the brooding and pervasive dampness of London fogs, the bleakness of the Kent coast in winter coupled with strong flawed characters and blended all those elements with a reasonable plot and a sprinkling of supernatural otherness that don’t undermine the plausibility of the story. I thought it was worth reading and if you have read an loved The Essex Serpent and The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock then this will be right up your darkened alley.
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  • Andy Weston
    January 1, 1970
    O’Donnell’s plot is a somewhat dubious one, though his historical accuracy and the gothic athmosphere he creates are certainly enticing. In Victorian London a young man arrives searching for his guardian. Women disappear and fall mysteriously to their deaths. In his quest, the young man encounters Inspector Cutter Of the yard and together they follow the trail to an isolated mansion on the Kent coast. At the same time, intrepid journalist Octavia Hillingdon follows the case, albeit a parallel st O’Donnell’s plot is a somewhat dubious one, though his historical accuracy and the gothic athmosphere he creates are certainly enticing. In Victorian London a young man arrives searching for his guardian. Women disappear and fall mysteriously to their deaths. In his quest, the young man encounters Inspector Cutter Of the yard and together they follow the trail to an isolated mansion on the Kent coast. At the same time, intrepid journalist Octavia Hillingdon follows the case, albeit a parallel storyline of less interest. That balance of crime mystery and the supernatural is an extremely difficult one to get right, writing in the footsteps of the likes of Poe, and in the setting of Victorian London, in those of Dickens also. For O’Donnell to capture the attention as he does requires great skill, and that comes from the quality of his writing and strength of his characters, rather than the plot. He writes with humour, which if ever in any doubt, wins the reader over, particularly with the character of Inspector Cutter.
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  • Nancy Oakes
    January 1, 1970
    like a 3.6 bumped up for the sheer enjoyment/purely entertaining factor.full post here at my reading journal:http://www.crimesegments.com/2018/12/...The House on Vesper Sands is a good mix of historical crime fiction and Victorian sensation fiction with more than a slight supernatural edge -- in short, it hit all of my relax-time, escape reading buttons. I read like I do everything else, wholeheartedly, giving the book in front of me my undivided attention, but sometimes I just need a brain bre like a 3.6 bumped up for the sheer enjoyment/purely entertaining factor.full post here at my reading journal:http://www.crimesegments.com/2018/12/...The House on Vesper Sands is a good mix of historical crime fiction and Victorian sensation fiction with more than a slight supernatural edge -- in short, it hit all of my relax-time, escape reading buttons. I read like I do everything else, wholeheartedly, giving the book in front of me my undivided attention, but sometimes I just need a brain break and a fun read, and this one fit the bill completely. I think it's probably fair to say that this book revolves around plot much more than it does its characters. Once I started reading I realized that some of these characters seemed familiar, albeit from other books I've read, but at the same time, there's something different going on here with these people. There's great interplay between Inspector Cutter and Gideon Bliss, for example, that provides a lot of humor that sort of balances out the more disturbing aspects of the novel. And while the supernatural edge of this mystery might bother some people, one of the main ideas so nicely presented in this book is that "men don't need magic to do evil," as Mr. O'Donnell clearly shows, which also provides a more serious side to the story. The House on Vesper Sands is pure entertainment, and one that its author must have had a great deal of fun writing. Every now and then reading for fun is a great thing, and I'm happy to have spent time with this story. Recommended for lighter mystery readers who don't mind a bit o' the strange in their stories. Don't look for great literature here - just relax, have fun, and go with the flow.
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  • Ionarr
    January 1, 1970
    Blaaaaaah. Pushing a 2.5 but I don't like it nearly enough to round up. This was very nearly a did not finish, but I always read 50 pages before giving up on a book. By that time, I just about cared enough about what might happen to keep going (and also had no energy to choose something else to read next.) I hoped it would get better as it went, but it did not. There was no real character development, the mysteries were all so straightforward even when they were revealed, and it all seemed very. Blaaaaaah. Pushing a 2.5 but I don't like it nearly enough to round up. This was very nearly a did not finish, but I always read 50 pages before giving up on a book. By that time, I just about cared enough about what might happen to keep going (and also had no energy to choose something else to read next.) I hoped it would get better as it went, but it did not. There was no real character development, the mysteries were all so straightforward even when they were revealed, and it all seemed very... shallow. Granted, I don't tend to love historical fiction, especially your standard gruff-policeman-upstart-woman-lots-of-dead-girls-in-mysterious-circumstances streets of London novels. I find they are too often thinly written and formulaic, promising far more than they can deliver, and without the elegance and nuance of truly great writing or novelty of a story with something actually new I really struggle to get through them. Sadly, this doesn't seem to stop me picking them up, partially because it seems everyone else is obsessed enough with them to give anything good reviews and partially because murder, mysticism and navigating smoky London in shawls and long skirts all appeal to me greatly, even if they never live up to the promise.This book certainly didn't live up to anything. I got it out of the library because it was recommended in the Guardians autumn reading list (more fool me - turns out the author is a Guardian contributor) and frankly, it looked and sounded pretty and atmospheric. The overwhelming impression I'm left with is boredom. I expect this will be the first of a series, or it will be earnestly adapted into a 3 part ITV show or something, and it would probably be perfect for that. I just don't think it's good enough, or original enough(/at all), or well written enough, or intriguing enough - it isn't really ANYTHING enough to warrant spending time reading it which could be spent reading a really good, or even semi-enjoyable and engaging, book.One caveat is that I think anyone who devours historical fiction, who is always looking for the next gruff but loveable policeman, unbearable earnest twat apprentice, and gutsy young woman shunning her appropriate restraints will probably like this. Especially if you churn through novels and are always looking for your next hit, this will scratch the itch. It's a murder mystery set in London in the late 1800s, and if that sounds up your alley then go read it. I still think it isn't one of the better historical fictions I've forced myself to read - The Tea Rose is still my favourite plucky young woman from misty London - but its worth the time if that's what you like. It's also absolutely perfect for this time if year. In July I would have stopped on the first word of page 51, but in late November in drizzly London it was much easier to drag myself through it, even if I was still bored at the end.Casual end note that although this avoided a lot of the sexism and rape-as-plot-points issues of some books, it also leaned a bit heavily on the trope of women as untouched, pure, good in a way men can never be, etc. Don't get me wrong, when the book and characters are generally tepid and 2d I'd far prefer interchangeable saints to interchangeable rape victims, but it was a little silly. Given the rest of the book it actually didn't bother me until a clarification near the end, at which point I found myself bordering on active annoyance.
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  • 4cats
    January 1, 1970
    When 2 genres collide, Victorian detective novel featuring the indomitable Inspector Cutter ably or maybe not so ably assisted by Gideon Bliss, they find themselves investigating an unusual case which involves missing young girls. However, as I've mentioned this isn't just a detective novel and it also deals with the supernatural.I loved this, Paraic O'Donnell captures the essence of a Victorian gothic mystery. He populates this rather wonderful novel with a cast a characters, and I'm hoping Bli When 2 genres collide, Victorian detective novel featuring the indomitable Inspector Cutter ably or maybe not so ably assisted by Gideon Bliss, they find themselves investigating an unusual case which involves missing young girls. However, as I've mentioned this isn't just a detective novel and it also deals with the supernatural.I loved this, Paraic O'Donnell captures the essence of a Victorian gothic mystery. He populates this rather wonderful novel with a cast a characters, and I'm hoping Bliss and Cutter will appear in print again.
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  • Helen Carolan
    January 1, 1970
    Oh my goodness. I totally loved this one. Part Victorian mystery, part Gothic and part fantasy, this had me gripped from the start. Gideon Bliss arrives in London to spend time with his reverend uncle only to find he's disappeared. Talking shelter in a nearby church he comes upon his foormer flame Angie Tatton who is near death and talking about the spiriters. In the morning she is gone. Gideon links up with inspector Cutter who is investigating the spiriters and their possible leader lord Stryt Oh my goodness. I totally loved this one. Part Victorian mystery, part Gothic and part fantasy, this had me gripped from the start. Gideon Bliss arrives in London to spend time with his reverend uncle only to find he's disappeared. Talking shelter in a nearby church he comes upon his foormer flame Angie Tatton who is near death and talking about the spiriters. In the morning she is gone. Gideon links up with inspector Cutter who is investigating the spiriters and their possible leader lord Strythe. Their investigation leads them to Strythe's house on Vesper Sands, where the full horror of the spiriters becomes clear. Loved it.
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  • Darren Darker
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve just finished reading The House of Vesper Sands and I loved it. It’s the 2nd novel from Paraic O’Donnell and I found it far more accessible than his first The Maker of Swans. The principle characters of inspector Cutter and his unwitting companion Gideon Bliss are investigating the presumed suicide of a seamstress working for a rich powerful man in Mayfair. Bliss has personal history and romantic interest in another girl, Angie Tatton, who is connected to the death but has subsequently disa I’ve just finished reading The House of Vesper Sands and I loved it. It’s the 2nd novel from Paraic O’Donnell and I found it far more accessible than his first The Maker of Swans. The principle characters of inspector Cutter and his unwitting companion Gideon Bliss are investigating the presumed suicide of a seamstress working for a rich powerful man in Mayfair. Bliss has personal history and romantic interest in another girl, Angie Tatton, who is connected to the death but has subsequently disappeared. They search for the missing girl who it seems has been kidnapped so that the excessive spiritual light inside her can be harvested by ‘spiriters’ to make them younger. A process that results in the deaths of the predominantly young women, Tatton is found but is literally slowly disappearing before their eyes! The novel is set in the Victorian era and it perfectly suits the underlying theme of mysticism and occultism that seems to have been so persuasive at the time. While there are other interesting characters such as the ambitious journalist Octavia Hillingdon, who is eager to find a real story rather than reporting on fluff pieces, it was the connection between the two men that is reminiscent of both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and of Commander Vic Rimes and the rest of his Nightwatch (from Terry Prachett’s Discworld series) that had me reading frantically towards the end. I for one, hope that he reprises these characters in his next novel.
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  • Jo
    January 1, 1970
    It's the late Victorian era and a seamstress is locked in a room in a lord's house to complete a project for him. She finds a way out and throws herself off the roof. Meanwhile, Gideon Bliss is seeking his missing uncle when he comes across a young woman he knows in a church who seems to have been attacked or something. Gideon's search brings him into the orbit of Inspector Cutter and the two of them find that the case of the dead seamstress ties in with that of the missing uncle. This was a ver It's the late Victorian era and a seamstress is locked in a room in a lord's house to complete a project for him. She finds a way out and throws herself off the roof. Meanwhile, Gideon Bliss is seeking his missing uncle when he comes across a young woman he knows in a church who seems to have been attacked or something. Gideon's search brings him into the orbit of Inspector Cutter and the two of them find that the case of the dead seamstress ties in with that of the missing uncle. This was a very good mystery with a slightly supernatural undertone. I found myself curious to find out what was really going on but I did find Gideon slightly irritating. It also felt like all the action seemed to happen at the end of the book whereas it might have flowed better to put the lead characters in more peril throughout. A pretty solid historical mystery but one that could have been so much more.
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  • Jack Bates
    January 1, 1970
    A marvellously Gothic mysteryPotentially paranormal adventures in Victorian London (and Kent) and some excellent characters. Neatly plotted, convincingly researched, and satisfying in every way.
  • Eleanor
    January 1, 1970
    (4.5)This is the book that The Wicked Cometh wanted to be. Young women are disappearing from London's East End, mostly orphans and servants that few, if any, will miss. A seamstress throws herself from the top of a lord's Mayfair townhouse; at the autopsy, a cryptic message is found stitched into her skin. What does it mean? And can young Gideon Bliss--recently arrived in London from his theological studies in Cambridge, but unable to find the mysterious uncle he's meant to be meeting---work wit (4.5)This is the book that The Wicked Cometh wanted to be. Young women are disappearing from London's East End, mostly orphans and servants that few, if any, will miss. A seamstress throws herself from the top of a lord's Mayfair townhouse; at the autopsy, a cryptic message is found stitched into her skin. What does it mean? And can young Gideon Bliss--recently arrived in London from his theological studies in Cambridge, but unable to find the mysterious uncle he's meant to be meeting---work with Inspector Cutter, not only to keep London's women safe, but to save Angie Tatton, the woman he loves? It's all very pseudo-Victorian Gothic, but it works beautifully, partly because O'Donnell's descriptive voice combines detail with restraint and partly because his characterization is so good. Cutter, irascible though fair, calls Bliss a "chattering streak of gannet's shite"; Bliss, true to his intellectual training, cannot use one word where a dozen might do; even Esther Tull, whom we know only for one chapter, is a person with conflicting desires and duties whose departure from the narrative (and from life) feels like a real loss to the reader. O'Donnell is also frequently funny: there really are elements of Dickens at his best in the dialogue. The plot does, surprisingly, rely upon the supernatural, which is the opposite decision about Gothic tropes to the choice Susan Fletcher makes in House of Glass (see here for my review), and which might put people off. Oddly, though, I rather liked it. Everything about The House on Vesper Sands has such a flavour of ghost story that its payoff is gratifying: for once, an author isn't messing with our heads or with genre expectations, and in this post-post-modern era, that feels oddly refreshing, especially when it's so well executed. Highly recommended.
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  • Jae
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting story well told. I particularly enjoyed the sense of humour running through this book.
  • Antenna
    January 1, 1970
    Naïve Cambridge undergraduate Gideon Bliss is intrigued and quite pleased to receive a request for help from his normally cold and distant uncle and guardian, the do-gooding clergymen Herbert Neuilly who devotes himself to assisting vulnerable young women fallen on hard times in London. These include Angela Tatton, to whom Gideon has clearly become attached. Arrived in London, Gideon is puzzled to find that his uncle is not at his lodgings: instead, he comes across Angela in strange circumstance Naïve Cambridge undergraduate Gideon Bliss is intrigued and quite pleased to receive a request for help from his normally cold and distant uncle and guardian, the do-gooding clergymen Herbert Neuilly who devotes himself to assisting vulnerable young women fallen on hard times in London. These include Angela Tatton, to whom Gideon has clearly become attached. Arrived in London, Gideon is puzzled to find that his uncle is not at his lodgings: instead, he comes across Angela in strange circumstances which imply she has been the victim of a bizarre attack, before she too disappears. Meanwhile, the feisty would-be journalist Octavia Hillingdon cycles round London trying to find out more about the enigmatic Lord Strythe, who has aroused her suspicions.If you like the sound of late Victorian detective fiction served up with dollops of melodrama, farce, implausible coincidences and supernatural happenings, this novel may appeal to you. It is an intertwined imitation of Wilkie Collins, Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde, but a pale one. I was encouraged to read it by a glowing review in The Guardian, but was disappointed from the outset by the very mannered style and some laboured descriptions, although I accept this may be an attempt to recapture a Victorian approach to writing. For the mainly exaggerated and two-dimensional characters there can be no excuse.I accept that Gideon and Octavia are quite likeable, there are some amusing exchanges, as between the long-winded Gideon and the gruff Inspector Cutter, and the author’s poetry sometimes creeps in to good effect: “rippled with lazing dust”; "a soundless bend of wind". Even the title, “The House at Vesper Sands”, has an alluring ring. However, I sympathise with the reader who could not believe that Octavia would ride to an evening ball on her bicycle, presumably in what would pass for evening dress. I could not believe that, desperate for shelter, the penniless Gideon would crash into an unfamiliar church where Angela Tatton just happened to be lying in a strange state by the altar. I could not credit that, while Octavia was attending a séance in the dark she could either take notes or conduct a detailed “information dump” conversation with her friend “Elf”, Lord Hartington, who had arrived late, having located her whereabouts. I persevered to Chapter XXII, by which time the undeniable presence of the supernatural became too much, causing me to fast-forward to the end of a book which failed to engage either my interest fully or my emotions at all.(By chance, I went on to read another book, "Himself" by Jess Kidd which invokes the supernatural far more frequently. Perversely, I found the latter a page-turner, partly because of the quality of the writing, mixing humour with poignancy, but also the tight construction and fact that the "ghosts" could be construed as telling "figments of the imagination".)
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  • what.heather.loves
    January 1, 1970
    "Lady Ada greeted this with a strange silence. She turned after a moment to the window. 'The wreck will be disturbed,' she remarked as if to herself. 'After aong spell of calm, it often appears that the sands will smother it entirely, then a storm comes and one wakes to find it exposed again almost to its keel.'"It's the winter of 1893 and in London girls and women are disappearing. Upon the discovery of his uncle's ward, Angela (Angie) Tatton in a bad way and then soon after missing, Gideon Bli "Lady Ada greeted this with a strange silence. She turned after a moment to the window. 'The wreck will be disturbed,' she remarked as if to herself. 'After aong spell of calm, it often appears that the sands will smother it entirely, then a storm comes and one wakes to find it exposed again almost to its keel.'"It's the winter of 1893 and in London girls and women are disappearing. Upon the discovery of his uncle's ward, Angela (Angie) Tatton in a bad way and then soon after missing, Gideon Bliss takes matters into his own hands posting as Inspector Cutter of Scotland Yard''s new sergeant to help solve the case.Running a parallel investigation into the missing girls alongside the sudden disappearance of Lord Strythe, is Octavia Hillingdon, a keen cyclist and society columnist who is capable of much more.Between them they discover a mysoginist and supernatural horror unfolding in the mists of London. It takes them Vesper Sands, in Kent, the home of Lord Strythe's sister, Lady Ada Strthe where Angie meets them and where the truth unravels before them.This is an atmospherically written, historical and supernatural mystery. Death looms all around, the book’s sections are even named after parts of the Requiem Mass. Whilst I struggled with the supernatural 'Spiriters' concept eventually revealed, it is not essential to the plot and what elevates this novel is the characters. I am particularly taken with Octavia Hillingdon, a feisty and independent hero as well as with the steadfast determination and speedy stride of Inspector Cutter. Neither character brooks any obstacle. Gideon Bliss is, for me, less appealing, but perhaps a necessary weaker foil to their strengths. A thoroughly enjoyable mystery, a modern and feminist take on a Victorian detective story.
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  • Marnee Pappin
    January 1, 1970
    So I think due to being so busy it killed any pleasure I might have got from this book or this just really wasn't a book for me. It seemed to drag so much and I didn't get pulled into this book like I usually do. It hard to do a review I really wanted to enjoy this book and had been on my TBR for a far amount of time but I just couldn't which blowed.BOOK COVER: 5 it has a stunning gorgeous coverRATING: MFAVE CHARACTER: None I couldn't even really find a full interest or enjoyment in any of the c So I think due to being so busy it killed any pleasure I might have got from this book or this just really wasn't a book for me. It seemed to drag so much and I didn't get pulled into this book like I usually do. It hard to do a review I really wanted to enjoy this book and had been on my TBR for a far amount of time but I just couldn't which blowed.BOOK COVER: 5 it has a stunning gorgeous coverRATING: MFAVE CHARACTER: None I couldn't even really find a full interest or enjoyment in any of the characters. Which also sucked to high heavenOVERALL: Disappointed only cause I really wanted to enjoy this book and I couldn'tWOULD I READ MORE BOOKS FROM THIS AUTHOR: Ummmm prob not based on this book but you never know I might pick this book up at a later date and find enjoyment in it but it just wasn't happening right now.RECOMMEND: Due to the fact that I didn't really enjoy this book I cant really say who to recommend the book to but I guess people who enjoy mystery and books based in old time England maybe (I like those things but didn't like the book but maybe someone else might)
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  • Lady R
    January 1, 1970
    I was really looking forward to this novel as I have read & loved similar books in this genre this year such as The Wicked Cometh & The Way of All Flesh.It started off really well but sadly I lost interest quickly & lots of things really started to irritate me not least the totally implausible plot coincidences. It reads as if the author set out to write a pastiche of the Victorian novel but I felt it tries to be too many things - part gothic, part thriller, part discussion on women I was really looking forward to this novel as I have read & loved similar books in this genre this year such as The Wicked Cometh & The Way of All Flesh.It started off really well but sadly I lost interest quickly & lots of things really started to irritate me not least the totally implausible plot coincidences. It reads as if the author set out to write a pastiche of the Victorian novel but I felt it tries to be too many things - part gothic, part thriller, part discussion on women in Victorian society and so it just fell flat for me. The characters are also hugely cliched - the grumpy Police Inspector, his hapless sidekick and a woman ahead of her time who frankly I found annoying.I can see it’s appeal - not least it’s stunning cover - but ultimately there were too many things not quite right in this to make it an enjoyable reading experience for me.So sadly it’s only 2.5 stars
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  • Ruth Dipple
    January 1, 1970
    I thought this book was a bit of a mish mash, and it was some time before it became clear whether this was a detective novel or a ghost story, or a hybrid (it turned out to be the latter). The setting of Victorian London and society is well described but it was hard to get to grips with the characters, the exception being Inspector Cutter, an offshoot of the Bucket family by all accounts.To be honest, I think it would have worked better as a straight detective novel - all the stuff about Spirite I thought this book was a bit of a mish mash, and it was some time before it became clear whether this was a detective novel or a ghost story, or a hybrid (it turned out to be the latter). The setting of Victorian London and society is well described but it was hard to get to grips with the characters, the exception being Inspector Cutter, an offshoot of the Bucket family by all accounts.To be honest, I think it would have worked better as a straight detective novel - all the stuff about Spiriters etc really sounded unconvincing. Having said that, I would not mind re-encountering Inspector Cutter and Sergeant Bliss in a more convincing plot.
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  • Jonathan Empson
    January 1, 1970
    Great characters in an entertainingly witty and occasionally sweary Victorian supernatural romp. It's a slight negative that the first chapter doesn't capture this tone, though, and that what you might call choreography is sometimes under-described, leaving you wondering where characters are and what exactly they're doing. But my copy was pre-publication, so I'm hoping it got another round of structural editing.
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  • Naomi Key
    January 1, 1970
    At first I didn’t really get on with this. Too confusing, too many characters, too much necessary Victorian wordiness. But about halfway through it all started to come together, with the last 25% being exciting and tightly plotted. Good if you enjoy a Victorian detective with a smidgen of the supernatural
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  • Lacer
    January 1, 1970
    The House on Vesper Sands is a gothic detective story about a group of mysterious disappearances and a mysterious suicide. There’s a grizzled detective, a green around the gills young man, a daring female reporter and shadowy supernatural going’s ons. It took me a while to settle into the story but I rather enjoyed it by the end.
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  • Naomi
    January 1, 1970
    I tried very hard to power through this book but when I found myself skipping whole pages I decided to call it a day. I was actually surprised to realise I was about halfway through. I generally love historical fiction but it felt so false and uncomfortable to read. The dialogue was terrible and the characters was cliched. When the plotting started to fall apart I gave up...
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  • Frank Clarke
    January 1, 1970
    Enjoyable gothic crime romp. O’Donnell’s prose is beautiful at times. I just felt the ending was a little predictable and that Hartington was a little too much the languid Wildean stereotype to be quite believable. Thought the villain ‘monologuing’ near the end was a little wooden too. I really did enjoy it though and would read more of his work.
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  • Nicola Pierce
    January 1, 1970
    Thoroughly enjoyed this - Victorian crime with humour and warmth, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Very well written and it made me laugh out loud more than once. I would love to see this as a series as I already miss the main characters. Reminded me a little of Morse, which I love!
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  • Pam Lecky
    January 1, 1970
    Victorian Gothic with a clever premise. What a fabulous read! Loved it, loved it, loved it. Superb writing, and my favourite time period with plenty of twists and turns. The setting and the characters were woven so beautifully. I hope there is a sequel. Pretty please!
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  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    My friend handed this book to me and said she never wanted to read anything as creepy as this again! Well it was certainly unsettling but the writing was beautiful and the plot so well crafted. A story of love, death and desire in London some time ago.
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  • Maggie
    January 1, 1970
    An engaging if not particularly challenging fun pre-Christmas read- but not a truly spooky ghost story, nor yet a police procedural. It feels a little like it could be made into a Sunday tv series without too much fuss. Definitely worth whiling away a cold evening in front of the fire with
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  • Samantha
    January 1, 1970
    Did not finish. I read a lot of books about Victoriana and in particular Victorian mysteries, and ghost stories. So this book should have been right up my street. However the prologue confused me and I got about 50 pages into it without caring about the two main characters or the mystery.
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