On the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth, it is appropriate that award-winning author Shepherd has produced a sterling Dickensian novel. This is a literary mystery, with author intrusion, tense shifts, multiple points of view and detailed descriptions. It is like falling into a wonderful time machine. Shepherd is a brilliant writer with an encyclopedic knowledge of Victorian England, which she uses perfectly to surround you with atmosphere and a story you won’t put down. Not to be missed.

In 1850 London Charles Maddox had belonged to the Metropolitan police, but his inability to be a quiet subordinate in the face of mistakes left him out of the force. Now he’s barely earning a living, working privately tracking down criminals and trying to solve unsolvable mysteries. When he is hired by a powerful and feared attorney, Edward Tulkinghorn, to find who is sending threatening letters to Sir Julius Cremornean, an even more powerful financier, the money is tempting — even though he realizes there is much more to the offer than meets the eye. He teams with his great-uncle Maddox, famous as a “thief taker” who earned the respect Charles never has. Driven by his past, Charles will not give up the chase, no matter what the personal consequences. (DELACORTE, May, 352 pp., $26.00)

Reviewed by: 
Page Traynor