Intense, gripping and a sometimes disturbing tangled tale of murderous desire.
I love any books set in the 1800’s but this masterpiece from Lisa Appignanesi was something a little different for me. A psychological thriller that grips you from the first page, it provides murderous twists and turns that I found extremely interesting.
To start with we meet James, the eldest of three who travels to Paris from Boston to retrieve his younger brother and sister who have become embroiled into new social and political circles, as the excitement around the Dreyfus affair intensifies. Unbeknown to James he is about to be thrust into a bizarre entanglement of crime, prostitution, asylums and anti-Semitism.
We are then told of younger brother Raf’s devastation on finding his Jewish lover dead in the river Seine. This quickly turns into a murder investigation leading both brothers into the violent world of human trafficking. Worrying the aspiring actress and dead lover of Raf has been caught up in it, the brothers embark on a quest that turns more sinister on the realisation that racial experiments are being conducted on the brains of Jewish woman within an asylum.
With leads spreading in different directions the brothers fail to see what is happening right under their noses with younger sister Ellie who has been taken ill. As the plot unfolds we hear more about Ellie’s condition, which is hinted as a manifestation of a past trauma, and we get more of an idea about what strange thoughts are going on in her head.
The book comes to a dramatic conclusion with the traumatic exhumation of Raf’s dead lover, the mystery of a lost bracelet, incestual leanings and attempted murder of one of the brothers.
I thoroughly enjoyed this complex read, and found the unexpected twists thought provoking and engaging. While there is an element of historical romance to the plot, the book is much more informative and political than most other novels I have read in this genre.
Many thanks to Arcadia Books for sending me this book to review, its kept me going through the long, cold month of December!