Victorian England -- fiction
When readers of Anne Perry’s Charlotte & Thomas Pitt mystery series first met Charlotte’s grandmother, Mariah Ellison, in The Cater Street Hangman, she was an embittered shrew. She certainly disapproved of her headstrong granddaughter marrying a mere policeman, an occupation considered quite below her well-heeled family’s Victorian-era standards.
But time and some enlightening experiences, including those events taking place in another year’s Christmas novella (A Christmas Guest), have left Mariah finally coming to terms with the damage done by her extremely regrettable marriage. Alone at Christmas, she feels she is strong enough to make A Christmas Return to right an old wrong that threatens people she cares about very much.
They call her Mary Quinn now. The judge would have happily have called her hanged. That’s what happens to unrepentant thieves, which is what Mary was. Orphaned and growing up on the streets of Queen Victoria’s London, an eight-year-old gets by as best she can. If that means dressing like a boy and picking pockets or even breaking into houses, that’s what she’ll do. Did. For four years until she was caught.
Mary was resigned to an end to her short and brutal life. She wouldn’t give the judge, or anyone, really, the satisfaction of tears or an apology. Even so, it was a harsh situation. Condemned to execution within days. So why was the lady in the courtroom’s gallery smiling at her—as if it was all going to be fine?
Abi Tamper leads a very restricted life as a maid in the Greaves household. It’s the 1850s, so there’s lots for a hired girl to do around a mansion in London, and next to none of it is enjoyable.
What really happened when genius businessman Sir Owain Lancaster decided he could conquer the Amazon? In the 1800s, it was not so unusual for British gentlemen to take on this kind of task—to prove the superiority of man over the elements and increase our scientific knowledge. In Sir Owain’s case, the natural elements won. Or, perhaps they were horrifically supernatural, as Sir Owain claims. Stephen Gallagher’s Bedlam Detective is determined to find out the truth.
Charles Maddox’s client turned out his daughter years ago for having “fallen,” in the way that Victorian women were said to do. She disappeared into one of London’s many workhouses and by the time her father wanted her back, there was no trace of either her or the child she bore for an unknown father. Lynn Shepherd’s The Solitary House leads readers on a tour of the sights, sounds, and smells of old London’s worst and best neighborhoods—places that often lay cheek by jowl to one another, as Charles struggles to find the missing girl.
Sherlock Holmes once remarked to Watson that “the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”
Indeed, readers who enjoy suspense, strong characters, and immersing themselves in the deceptively quiet and sometimes lethal English countryside of Victoria’s reign should enjoy Anne Perry’s A Christmas Visitor. Though it does feature a character from her well-established William Monk series, it is not necessary at all to have read those books to appreciate this one.
Back in the time of horse-drawn carriages and gas-lit streets, tiny Sophie was found floating in a cello case next to a sinking ship nigh unto London.
The dying days of summer—hot and bright or fog-drenched and rainy—are a suitable time to escape to another century and into the Old World where vampires lurk in musty tombs and sometimes in the candlelight of high society. Michael Sims' collection, Dracula’s Guest, does include Stoker’s title story, but it is also a gathering of kindred pieces that lay out tales both plain and highly-embroidered of the pernicious beings known as vampires. These old school blood-drinkers do not sparkle handsomely in daylight and are decidedly and viciously carnivorous.
H.G. Wells’ classic, The Time Machine, tells the story of a man who travels through time into the far distant future to find that humanity has evolved into two distinct species: the complacent, placid Eloi and the predatory, cunning Morlocks. Falling in love with one of the Eloi, the protagonist is successful in recovering his Time Machine and using it to escape back to Victorian England. But he feels lovesick and depressed without her, and finally uses the Time Machine to travel back to the future to rejoin her and help the Eloi create a new golden age free of the Morlocks’ terror…or so H.G. Wells assumed.
With its intentional emulation of a Victorian writing-style and elaborate machines recalling the dawn of science fiction, Morlock Night, K.W. Jeter’s sequel to The Time Machine, was the novel for which the phrase “steampunk” was invented. Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction rooted in the speculative fiction of the nineteenth century and is distinguished by its use of Victorian-era settings, steam-powered technology, and stylistic elements influenced by nineteenth century writing. Morlock Night’s combination of science fiction and alternate history proved to be a major stylistic influence that codified many aspects of the steampunk genre. Shorter and more action oriented than Wells’ novel, it is dominated by an atmosphere of darkness and suspense and an ironic, knowing wit.