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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Review: The Dark Lantern by Gerri Brightwell

The Dark Lantern by Gerri Brightwell
Hardcover, 336 pages
Crown Publishing
March 4, 2008

Genre: Victorian Historical Fiction

Source: Passed on to me by Arleigh for review

“London, 1893. Elderly Mrs. Bentley is on her deathbed, and her son Robert has returned from France. But in the Bentleys’ well-appointed home, everyone has their secrets, including Robert’s beautiful and elusive wife, the orphan maid she hires from the country, and the mysterious young woman who arrives, claiming to be the bride of Robert’s drowned brother.

Robert is quickly developing a reputation in anthropometry, the nascent science of identifying criminals by body measurements. Yet soon he is caught up in the deceptions swirling around him, for no one under his roof is quite what they seem. When an intruder enters the house and ransacks the study, a chain of events is set in motion that threatens not only the genteel, comfortable life the Bentleys have managed to secure but also their very survival.

A fascinating portrayal of a vanished England as well as an unconventional mystery, The Dark Lantern exposes the grand “upstairs” of a Victorian home and the darker underbelly of its servants’ quarters. The clash between the classes makes for a suspenseful novel of mistaken identities, intriguing women, and dangerous deceptions.”

The Dark Lantern is a Victorian mystery, of sorts. Jane becomes a maid in the household of the Bentleys. Mrs. Bentley is a very sick old woman. Mr. and Mrs. Robert Bentley have recently moved into the house to help take care of his ailing mother. Hints are given that Mrs. Robert Bentley is not quite who she seems to be. There is also the mystery of Mr. Henry Bentley heading home from India and a mysterious new wife of his. Jane becomes the go-to girl for Mrs. Robert Bentley as a spy within the household. As all of the backgrounds of the Bentley’s begin to come to light and Jane is caught in the middle with nowhere to turn.

If the above summary sounds a little confusing – that was how I felt reading it. The story failed to grab my attention from the word go. All of the family members have something to hide, and there really wasn’t a lot of solid character development. I found that at about ¾ of the way through the book, I still didn’t remember the names of the characters. The last 50 pages or so picked up the pace drastically. Everything started coming together but it felt rushed. The outcome was interesting but not having made any solid connections with any of the characters, I found I didn’t care much what happened to them. I think that this could have been a much more enjoyable read overall if some additional character development occurred throughout the book. I also would hope for a few more events to occur.

Author Gerri Brightwell has also written Cold Country

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2009 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I just finished a book where I also felt really disconnected from the characters...and that's not a good thing! It makes reading a chore and it shouldn't be.

    Thanks for the honest review Heather!

  2. Oh I hate it when that happens. I had one like that a while ago...I found myself skimming through the last half of the book :-/ Hope your next one is better!


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