MYSTERY

People of Abandoned Character

Head of Zeus. May 2021. 432p. ISBN 9781838932732. $24.95. M
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Susannah Chapman has always hidden her past, even when she studied nursing in London. In 1888, she considers herself lucky to marry Thomas Lancaster, a surgeon. On their honeymoon, he worships her; she discovers she married a hedonist who draws her into his lifestyle, including liquor and laudanum. When they return to his house in Chelsea, her insecurity returns in the face of a now abusive, angry husband and Mrs. Wiggs, a housekeeper who frightens her. When violent murders occur in Whitechapel, and Thomas returns home in the early hours of the morning, covered in blood, Susannah begins to suspect he might be the killer she’s reading about in the newspapers. Her suspicions lead her to the streets of Whitechapel and into trouble, as Mrs. Wiggs and Thomas turn on her, with plans to send her to an asylum. Her defenses crumble as her husband twists her comments and uses her secrets against her. But Thomas’s actions have their own repercussions, bringing violence into the house on the day Susannah tries to flee her prison.
VERDICT This debut historical mystery contains echoes of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Jack the Ripper. The unreliable narration combines with richly detailed writing in a mystery with a shocking conclusion.
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