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The Dark Lantern

3.11 of 5 stars 3.11  ·  rating details  ·  556 ratings  ·  106 reviews
London, 1893. Elderly Mrs. Bentley is on her deathbed, and her son Robert has returned from France. But in the Bentleys’ well-appointed home, everyone has their secrets, including Robert’s beautiful and elusive wife, the orphan maid she hires from the country, and the mysterious young woman who arrives, claiming to be the bride of Robert’s drowned brother.

Robert is quickly
...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 6th 2009 by Three Rivers Press (first published March 4th 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,743)
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Joyce
Things I liked about this book:

1. Learning about anthropometry as an alternative to fingerprinting in the 18th Century.
2. The characters were well drawn enough to hold my attention, though I liked some characters better than others.
3. I enjoyed the mystery angle, though not necessarily all of the mystery "solutions".

Things I disliked about this book:

1. Really not interested in the state of various characters' bladders throughout the story.
2. Could have done without the sex scenes. The fact that
...more
Laura
This little treat of Victorian Noir follows an orphan who takes a position in London as housemaid in the Bentley home, where the “below stairs” folk seem to be as treacherous and secretive as those above stairs. The mistress of the house is dying and her son and daughter-in-law have come to visit, but the daughter-in-law refuses to leave the house because of some unnamed danger lurking in the foggy streets, and the servants are slyly running amok. Meanwhile the son is busy dabbling in anthropome ...more
MaryannC.Book Fiend
A very good intriguing book. Loved the Victorian setting of London, I felt like I was there amongst the sights and sounds.
Avril
May 08, 2008 Avril added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who love the dismalia of Victoriana
I'm nearing the end of this novel, and wishing it would be finished already. The coincidence of three women from three walks of life all coming from the same background, all struggling to maintain a facade of respectability seems a bit contrived.

Sadly, in order to survive an oppressive society with no support for these women, they have to scheme, lie and get up to all sorts of bad stuff.

Meanwhile, the setting is dingy and dirty too. The falling snow turns grey, the ashes from the fire settling
...more
Jolene
This story takes place in the late nineteenth century and centers around a young servant girl from the English countryside. She has just taken the position of a housemaid in a London household and becomes immersed in a web of secrets, deceptions, and hidden pasts, not the least of which is her own. Brightwell cleverly uses a vivid depiction of 1890s London and the difficulties of a life in service to strengthen the atmosphere without overwhelming the plot.
Judi
This was a great, pulpy period piece: an upstairs/downstairs mystery set in a pre-war London upper-class household. Interesting cast of characters, one of whom has a pretty dark secret. It's on the heavier side of light reading, if that makes sense, and is short & tight. I read it in about 24 hours, and enjoyed it.
Charlie
Another smart Victorian novel that does not disappoint. Brightwell craftily depicts Victorian London from behind the draped curtains of middle-class society. This is a book that holds actual thematic weight and not just a promising plot. Through the weaving and interaction of characters the class line is drawn, but also crossed, which gives the story a classical feel and is probably due to the author’s schooled background in literature studies. Even though class separates the characters, secrets ...more
Jennifer
This book portrayed Victorian England well. The relationships between the servants themselves and their interactions with their employers conveyed what daily household life may have been like in Victorian England. Jane, the main narrator/point of view of the story is newly arrived to London from the country. She is the second house maid and therefore responsible for most of the scutwork "upstairs", such as cleaning and lighting the fireplaces, and the majority of the cleaning. Unfortunately, she ...more
LJ
THE DARK LANTERN (Hist. Thriller-Jane Wilbred-England-1893) - Okay
Brightwell, Gerri – 1st book
Crown Publishers, 2008, US Hardcover – ISBN: 9780307395344

First Sentence: She sits stiffly on the seat of the cart, her whole self held in against the tumult of the city.

Jane Wilbred, the daughter of a murderess, was raised in an orphanage and began her life in service to a tyrannical vicar’s wife. She has altered a reference letter and secured a new post in London to the Bentley family.

Mrs. Bentley l
...more
Mary Robinson
This is a extremely well-done, but very depressing, thriller set in Victorian London. It sure brought home, once again, how few options women had during that time if they didn’t come from money and a loving family. It’s a sad story and it wasn’t that fun for me because there was no one to root for, but at the same time, that’s what made it intriguing: you didn’t know what the true story was on any of the main characters. The author weaves interlocking stories and clues in a very convincing, effo ...more
Alice
Overall impressions: Strong elements, lovely descriptions, devious women!

The summary sets it up as if the maid (our main character, Jane) and the young woman (Victoria/the widow) have the most secrets, but the events of the plot focus on Robert Bentley’s wife, Mina. But we don’t learn this until much later.

The story opens with Jane accepting a new housekeeping job at a nice estate in London. She’s a shy and nervous girl after coming from a devoutly Christian mistress who shoved the sins of Jane’
...more
Babette
I read this book based on a recommendation I came across. It sounded promising, but was disappointing. It is more about the secrets in people's lives than a real mystery. I suppose the best I can say about it is that it seems to provide a good picture way people lived during the period - the precariousness of many people's lives and their dependence on the good nature of others.
Nancy Oakes
The Dark Lantern is set in Victorian London. Its central focus is the Bentley family, especially Robert and Mina Bentley, who are basically sitting around waiting for Robert's mother to pass away. Robert and his brother Henry will be sharing quite an inheritance, and this is something that Robert's wife Mina is looking forward to. Robert is a leading proponent of anthropometry for identifying criminals at a time when fingerprinting is also being bandied about as an identification tool. Aside fro ...more
Heather
The Dark Lantern is a Victorian mystery, of sorts. Jane becomes a maid in the household of the Bentleys. Mrs. Bentley is a very sick old woman. Mr. and Mrs. Robert Bentley have recently moved into the house to help take care of his ailing mother. Hints are given that Mrs. Robert Bentley is not quite who she seems to be. There is also the mystery of Mr. Henry Bentley heading home from India and a mysterious new wife of his. Jane becomes the go-to girl for Mrs. Robert Bentley as a spy within the h ...more
Stephanie D.
Mysterious women with shady pasts, criminals masquerading as respectability, questionable deaths - nothing and no one is what they seem in The Dark Lantern by Gerri Brightwell. Not even our put-upon heroine, young Jane Wilbred who comes to the Bentley's Victorian home as the orphan maid from the country. With a forged letter of reference, Jane is trying to make a new start and move up in the world, far from her roots as an infamous murderess' daughter. The servants in the Bentley household have ...more
Shawn
I finished this book a few weeks ago, but didn't have time to review it then. The story is told from a servants point of view, and moves along fairly well. I was not really drawn into the story very much----even though the writing is pretty well done. It is about a household that is waiting for the matriarch to pass away, so everyone can get on with their lives, even though a strange woman shows up claiming to be the eldest sons wife, and wanting to inherit everything. The wife of the second son ...more
Melissa
Several times during the reading of this book, I was prepared to put it down and not pick it up again. Maybe it was the cold, snowy day I was experiencing in Colorado and all the references to frigid, cold England. Maybe it was the fact that nothing positive ever seemed to any of the characters in the book. Or maybe it was just too gloomy a story for me. I did finish the book, and sort of glad I did...although several parts were left unfinished (which always irritates me...I like my stories wrap ...more
colleen the contrarian  ± (... never stop fighting) ±
I think I gave it a fair shot, but at nearly 40% in I don't care about a single person who thing about this book. (Well, I'm mildly curious to see if (view spoiler).

The "intrigue" of everyone in the house having secrets and spying on each other just doesn't do it for me, when I don't like or care about any of the characters.

The fight between anthropometry versus finger printer could be interesting, but we obviously know how that tur
...more
Tory Wagner
This was a great read. Unlike some mysteries, everything wasn't clearly spelled out and not all loose ends were tied up. The story begins with a young orphan who must go into service. Her mother was a criminal who murdered someone, so Jane had alot of baggage that made it difficult to find and keep a position. She begins working for a couple who are nursing a dying mother. They have expectations of inheriting, but unexpectantly the widow of his bother arrives. There is some mystery about whether ...more
Nina
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sheila
The words "dark secrets" and "gothic" in a book's description never fail to land the book on my "to-read" list. :) That's why I read this, and I'm glad I did. This novel really captures the grime and stink of Victorian London--the evocative setting is the book's true strength. The plot reminds me a bit of Sarah Waters, with its twists and turns. Ultimately this is a book about identity. Everyone in this book is either lying about his/her identity, or is the victim of a liar. I liked the plot a l ...more
Bianca
Jane is a housemaid trying to better herself and she lands a situation in London. She also has a secret - she is the daughter of a murderer which she has managed to keep from her employer using deceptive means. Now she is in service the mistress knows she has a secret and uses it to ensure Jane's loyalty. Then a number of strange happenings occur - a death, an unknown marriage, another death and lies and secrets come to the service. It seems everyone in the Bentley household has a secret - even ...more
Pat
A neat little Victorian era suspense tale with well-developed characters, evocative grimy,chaotic London setting(pea soup fog and all), a faithful depiction of the harsh working conditions of those who live "Downstairs" versus those who wine and dine "Upstairs, and plenty of plot twists and turns to intrigue.Gerri Brightwell has promise and I hope she continues to publish;this was more than just a mystery,it was also a subtle meditation on(thank you Mr. Dylan) how " we all gotta serve somebody"/ ...more
Kay Robart
I had mixed feelings about The Dark Lantern, Geri Brightwell’s novel of deception and intrigue set in late 19th century London. Although I found myself interested enough in what happens, I also thought that the odds of this much intrigue going on in one house were very low. Aside from the number of people hiding secrets in this novel, I also felt that few of the characters are likable. The main character is the most sympathetic, but she seems incredibly stupid at times. Nevertheless, the plot ke ...more
Judith
This is about, no, it is the dreariest book I have ever tried to read.
Apryl Mason
I had high hopes for this one, but was so disappointed. I had a hard time picking it back up after a break. I was just bored. This mystery was just a mash up of details and clues that never really seemed to come together until the very end. And even then, it never resolved the way I had hoped. The ending was the only time things finally began to make a little sense. I felt like there wasn't much of a story; just a bunch of mysterious happenings with no hint as to how they would be connected. I d ...more
Jenna Thomas-mckie
Just too gloomy and dreary for my current state of mind.
Elisa M
OK, let me save everybody some time. You can skip disks 1-5 if you only know that: everybody has secrets. The mistress of the house has secrets, Sarah the maid has secrets, Jane (the new maid) has secrets, the young widow has secrets, Jane's "boyfriend" has secrets, even the soon-to-be-released prisoner has secrets. Everyone has secrets. What are these secrets? Will we ever know everybody's secrets? Will everybody know each others' secrets? Secrets, secrets, secrets. OK, now proceed to disk 6. B ...more
Tamara
The last 50 pages finally got interesting but the blurb for this book definitely oversold the book!

Set in Victorian England, Dark Lantern tells the story of Jane the housemaid, and the family she works for. Everyone has secrets which promise to be interesting and simply aren't. Everyone appears to be using someone else for some reason. The only thing that held real promise was an alternative method of criminal identification to fingerprinting and that was not the main focus of the story. All in
...more
Donna
If you like books that are set in Victorian England and that involve both the servants and the upper-class residents of a home (like in "Upstairs/Downstairs" or "Downton Abbey"), then this is a book you'd be interested in. I didn't always like the abrupt narrative changes but it was overall a good, mysterious story and I enjoyed it. I also found the competition between fingerprinting and anthopometry as a means of criminal investigation and apprehension to be really interesting, especially since ...more
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