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The Dark Lantern

3.15  ·  Rating details ·  840 ratings  ·  136 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
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 4th 2008 by Crown
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3.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  840 ratings  ·  136 reviews

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Jan 12, 2009 rated it liked it
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
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
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
This is one of the books where I'm in the middle between loving it and hating it. I'm luke-warm, not hot not cold.

I really liked the characters to a degree. Not that they are particularly likeable.

Mina being a shady bitch who is so paranoid that others are just as shady as she is, and she is not necessarily wrong about that either.

Jane being a weepy whipping girl but at the same time has her own agenda. Okay after awhile she stopped weeping so much, but it's already been cemented in my head of
Goodness - the deceptions in the Bentley household come thick and fast in this book. Each member, family and servant, have their secrets. It reminded me a little of Downton Abbey, although it’s mostly set in the last decade of the 1800s and has more intrigue even than Downton.

I have to confess to being fickle enough that I was a bit disappointed when I found that the cover of my book looked like this rather than like this. And that it was even enough to make me less inclined to read the book, bu
MaryannC. Book Freak
May 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
A very good intriguing book. Loved the Victorian setting of London, I felt like I was there amongst the sights and sounds.
Nov 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
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
Jan 25, 2008 added it
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
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
May 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 08, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: incomplete
I had been wanting to read this book for quite some time, but it turned out to be another bust. I'm so tired of being disappointed by books. I decided to throw this one across the room after less than a chapter. I knew it wasn't going to be any good.
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
(2.5 stars) The book is set in the late 1800s in London and focuses on the Bentley household. The owner of the home, Mrs. Bentley, is extremely ill and her son, Robert and his wife, Mina, have recently come to stay after being abroad. Robert is a proponent of anthropometry and hopes to get this recognized as the method to identify criminals. Mina has recently hired a maid from the country, Jane, who has hidden the fact that she is the daughter of a murderess. But Mina has her own secrets, and th ...more
Dec 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Where to begin... (possibly mild spoilers ahead!)
This book was just luke warm for me. I'll start with the characters. While they all were interesting and devious, those below stairs as well as above, I just didn't find myself super attached to any of them.
Especially Mina, let's talk about her for a moment. I did not feel anything for her. At all. Through most of the book she's a bit crazy and does some horrible things. Near the end they reveal her tragic past. And I still don't care. I wouldn't
Mary Robinson
Aug 10, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Nicole Romine
Aug 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
I tend to be depressingly consistent on what’s going to make me love a book – a Victorian era historical set in London, a female protagonist, a multi-layered mystery, and a bit of social commentary. The last book I read that had all of these components (Grace Hammer) was incredibly disappointing. The Dark Lantern, however, delivered a captivating plot that perfectly achieved everything I want in a good read. In addition, the narrative is perfectly paced, which is a rarity in these types of books ...more
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'm rating this as a very mediocre mystery which only gets the least bit interesting in the last few chapters. The writing is average, the characters black and white, and the plot is so slow in developing it pretty much sends you to sleep. Add to that a main character that is so mousy and weepy that you want to slap her, and you've got a book that I cannot recommend to anyone.
Oct 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery-suspense
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.
Sep 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have had this book on my to read list for years, and I always thought it was a Gothic novel. But The Dark Lantern is actually a twisty historical novel set in 1893 England, a novel that spins a web of lies and deception. When old Mrs. Bentley lies dying in her upper class home in London, her younger son and his wife return home from Paris where Robert has championed the new forensic science of anthropometry, vying with fingerprints as the best method of identifying criminals. Mina, Robert's wi ...more
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very suspenseful and intense story weaving the lives of four different woman who are all in one household in Victorian London. Mina is the wife of Robert, they have come from Paris because his mother is dying; Price is the mother’s ladies maid; Jane is the newly hired young orphaned maid and lastly - the young widow. Robert’s brother has died when his ship from India sank off France. Four very different women... with many layers of secrets.
Nov 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 19thcentury
I found most of this book to be a slog. All the characters were pretty unlikeable and miserable which mean you couldn't even enjoy watching events unfold despite the lack of connection. I suppose I appreciate the author's more realistic approach to life for any given person living at this time, but there was no spark of joy or light anywhere.
Debbie Floyd
Between 3 and 3.5 stars. I liked the story, although there was what I considered busy writing that to me did not seem to lend anything to this mystery/thriller. Overall it was a quick read for me and I did enjoy the history about the methods of crime fighting during the Victorian era.
Dec 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting just in terms of the point of view of "below-the-stairs" of the British upper class. I really didn't like any of the characters, which was perhaps the point. The foray into forensic science made an interesting diversion.
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Victorian era with upstairs and downstairs stories. So many secrets, so much deception and so much paranoia. It was a good read and I love that she wrapped up every mystery at the end. I did learn some things about the life of service and it was quite a life of despair.
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book is ok, and that's it. Easy to read, but a bit insubstantial and a bit far fetched.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this beautifully written book. I didn’t want to put it down until I was finished.
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it
OK at best. Will not be searching for more books by this author.
M.R. Graham
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Didn't quite hold my interest.
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