Synopsis: In 1893 a storm sweeps through London, while Arthur Shaw—a young astronomer with a side career writing fiction—is at work in British Museum Reading Room. The storm wreaks unprecedented damage throughout London. Its aftermath of the storm Arthur’s prime literary market closes, owing him money, and all his debts come due at once. His fiance Jo takes a job as a stenographer for some of the fashionable spiritualist and occult societies of fin de siècle London society. Meanwhile, Arthur deciphers an encoded newspaper ad seeking able young men. It seems to be a clerking job doing accounting work, but the mysterious head man Mr. Gacewell offers Arthur a starting position at a salary many times what any clerk could expect. The work is long and peculiar, and the men spend all day performing unnerving calculations that make them hallucinate or even go mad…but the salary is compelling.
Things are beginning to look up when the wages of dabbling in the esoteric suddenly come due: a war breaks out between competing magical societies, and Arthur interrupts Jo in the middle of an elaborate occult exploration. This rash move turns out to be dire, as Jo’s consciousness is stranded at the outer limits of the occultists’ psychic day trip. Which, Arthur is chagrinned…
Review: Another novel set during the Victorian period and I admit that I was intrigued right away, especially with the mix of the occult. This is something that is always interesting and I was curious to find out what the author would present us.
We discover at the very beginning of the novel, a young writer, Arthur, working at the British Museum during the passage of a terrible storm. Yes, this event had serious consequences for London and our hero finds himself without a job but full of debts that need to be paid. It is within this framework that he will have to find a job, something that will propel him into a world of which he knows nothing about and where he will have to struggle to keep his head above water. Yet it is also because of this world that he will unwittingly put his fiancee in danger and all this without being able to help her to return to him.
We therefore follow the two characters alternately, each following his/her own adventures but both trying to find the other. It will not be an easy quest and they will face many obstacles together. The theme of the story is quite interesting and I admit I was curious to see where all this would be led but I think I’ve struggled to get into the story from the start and I stayed a little away throughout the chapters. So it was a bit difficult for me to hang on the story and the characters but all was still fun to read.
I am curious to discover another novel by the author.