Virginia Woolf would approve
London socialite Lydia Langstone takes refuge from her abusive husband with her estranged father, who resides at number 7, Bleeding Heart Square. Her new surroundings are daunting to one accustomed to a life of privilege. The landlord, Joseph Serridge, takes quite an interest in Lydia, even setting her up in her first ever job. Among the tenants is Rory Wentworth, an unemployed journalist engaged to the niece of the building’s now missing previous owner. Rory has been poking his nose into Serridge’s past, at the behest of a local bobby who has a grudge against Serridge and is trying to pin a murder on him.
The atmosphere of this multi-layered novel is instantly set by the delivery to number 7 of a decaying animal heart wrapped in brown paper. The year is 1935, in the midst of the depression, and England is struggling to recover from the aftereffects of WWI. Local Fascists are trying to gain control of England’s government, and they are not averse to using violence. The seedy neighborhood and a myriad of slightly creepy characters contribute to the sense of menace, and chapter by chapter, the suspense ratchets up a notch. Lydia is slowly drawn into the action, only gradually realizing how much of her life till now has been heavily wrapped in secrets.
Author Taylor has been compared to Dickens, a comparison that is apt. Taylor is a skilled writer, deft with dialogue and description. His plot device here, that of an unknown reader perusing the victim’s diary, sustains the mystery and increases apprehension to the very last page. Don’t miss it.