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The House on Vesper Sands

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  874 ratings  ·  185 reviews
London, 1893: high up in a house on a dark, snowy night, a lone seamstress stands by a window. So begins the swirling, serpentine world of Paraic O’Donnell’s Victorian-inspired mystery, the story of a city cloaked in shadow, but burning with questions: why does the seamstress jump from the window? Why is a cryptic message stitched into her skin? And how is she connected to ...more
Hardcover, 408 pages
Published January 12th 2021 by Tin House Books (first published October 18th 2018)
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Anthony No, not yet. It will be released in January 2021. Then you can buy it at your local bookstore :)
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Average rating 3.62  · 
Rating details
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Ova - Excuse My Reading
3.5 rounded to 4!

Octavia is definitely a character you will not regret reading. I loved the atmosphere in the novel, it was like walking in the foggy streets of Victorian London. A Gothic mystery with supernatural elements and was a good tale, but somehow alongside the way my attention got chopped from the story, the pace slowed, the characters weren't as interesting as they were in the start. The ending picked up the tension and pace again. Maybe it was because the mysterious Lord Strythe wasn'
Jan 06, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley, audio
This Victorian mystery gives us a crazy trio of characters. Gideon Bliss is a Cambridge dropout, who purposely allows a case of mistaken identity to pretend to be a police sergeant. His motive is so he can track down a young lady who has gone missing. He’s working with Detective Inspector Cutter, who is researching the suspicious death of a young seamstress. And then, there’s Octavia Hillingdon, a young reporter who’s tired of reporting on “women’s issues”. O’Donnell gives us a great atmospheric ...more
Liz Barnsley
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m on a right reading roll at the moment and nothing has captured my imagination quite as much as The House On Vesper Sands.
Brilliantly immersive, descriptively pitch perfect with a hugely dynamic set of characters, this is one of those books you devour in short order, living it all the way. The era is captured in reading surround sound and the story itself is completely compelling…dark as you like and twice as delicious.
The characters you’ll meet within the pages are all, every one of them, co
Dec 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I want to express my thanks to NetGalley and RB Media for this audiobook. This cunning and dark storyline with Gothic and supernatural touches was written in Victorian style. The vivid descriptions of London in the 1890s are enhanced by memorable characters and their conversations. The storyline is intriguing, dark and creepy, but also contains hilarious sections. This is a police procedural containing a mystic crime plot. It was expertly narrated.

Gideon Bliss, a former theology student, is sum
Dec 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, audio, netgalley
“The house was not large, for a family of such means, but its isolation gave a stark grandeur to its appearance. It rose from a promontory overlooking the dunes, and might have served at one time as a seaside villa. There was a faded elegance still about its arches and mullions, but it had fallen into neglect. Years of salt air had roughened its stonework, and its gables were discoloured by lichen and rust.”

This book was really fun; I enjoyed the plot, characters and writing style. It’s a clever
Mairead Hearne (
My Rating ~ 4.5*

'Ladies and gentlemen, the darkness is complete.'

Looking for something exciting? Looking for something dark and mysterious? Well look no further.

The House on Vesper Sands is the latest novel from Paraic O’ Donnell and is a perfectly pitched tale of suspense wrapped up in a shadowy cloak of darkness.

Welcome to Vesper Sands, a gothic tale that will delight and mystify, that will enthrall and bewitch from the opening pages.

Gideon Bliss arrives from Cambridge to meet up with his
The clocks have gone back and Halloween has passed – now it's officially winter, I have a craving for historical fiction. The House on Vesper Sands is a Victorian pastiche with a mystery at its heart and touches of the macabre – a bit like The Woman in Black spliced with a Dickens novel.

The opening chapter is brilliantly captivating; I found it irresistible. Esther Tull, a seamstress, visits a grand house at night and is coldly received by a sneering butler. While she has official business a
Maximilian Birner
Dec 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
The opening to The House on Vesper Sands is so strong, I just wish I had felt the same connection to the mystery itself in the same way I loved the settings and the characters.

While I wouldn't say I read a lot of Victorian mysteries, I do feel as though the strongest aspect of this novel was O'Donnell's writing. Big houses, abandoned streets, witty and sometimes comedic dialogue was the exact tone I was expecting and the exact tone I wanted. But my main issue for this novel was none of those th
Dec 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2018
On a bitterly cold night, three seemingly unconnected events happen. Lord Strythe who is being watched by Octavia Hillingdon who thinks she is onto a story, vanishes into the night. In his home, a seamstress who is there to make alterations to a finely crafted gown is locked into the attic room to carry out her duties. She has been careful to disguise her pain in front of the butler from the words sewn into her own flesh, but she climbs through the window onto the sill before turning and jumping ...more
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Blaaaaaah. Pushing a 2.5 but I don't like it nearly enough to round up.

This was very nearly a did not finish, but I always read 50 pages before giving up on a book. By that time, I just about cared enough about what might happen to keep going (and also had no energy to choose something else to read next.) I hoped it would get better as it went, but it did not. There was no real character development, the mysteries were all so straightforward even when they were revealed, and it all seemed very.
Nancy Oakes
like a 3.6 bumped up for the sheer enjoyment/purely entertaining factor.

full post here at my reading journal:

The House on Vesper Sands is a good mix of historical crime fiction and Victorian sensation fiction with more than a slight supernatural edge -- in short, it hit all of my relax-time, escape reading buttons. I read like I do everything else, wholeheartedly, giving the book in front of me my undivided attention, but sometimes I just need a brain bre
Andy Weston
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
O’Donnell’s plot is a somewhat dubious one, though his historical accuracy and the gothic athmosphere he creates are certainly enticing.
In Victorian London a young man arrives searching for his guardian. Women disappear and fall mysteriously to their deaths. In his quest, the young man encounters Inspector Cutter Of the yard and together they follow the trail to an isolated mansion on the Kent coast. At the same time, intrepid journalist Octavia Hillingdon follows the case, albeit a parallel st
The characters are what made this story interesting for me. Gideon is smart, but trips over himself when he gets flustered. He's in love with a woman and is willing to do whatever it takes to find her after she goes missing. Inspector Cutter is great, he's an amazing detective with no patience for others and I really enjoyed his back and forth with Gideon. And best for last, Octavia. She's a journalist trying to break big stories in a time where women weren't even really working in professional ...more
Lady Shockley
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've read this year, and I've read 140 in 2020, so that's saying something.

A whirlwind of the Victorian era - a mystery, some Spiritualsm, a poor ecclesiastical student pining for a beauty of a different class, the plight of the poor, and the irascible Inspector Cutter - all this, AND intrigue on a train. Quite a refreshing take on the ways in which the women of that era were repressed and abused as a matter of course. Paraic O'Donnell is a write to watch.

Wonderfully ente
Karen Wellsbury
Entertaining and Gothic read, very funny in places, mainly due to CI Cutter.
The premise, and how the crime was solved was clever with Gideon and Octavia's investigations running in parallel but I never felt that connected to either of them.
The book came alive for me when Cutter was on page , and I also very much liked Ada.
Curious to know if this is a standalone or will become part of a series
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
This is a good novel. A mismatched pair including an over-educated divinity student Gideon teamed up with quickwitted ,impatient ,sharp and brusque Inspector Cutter. Throw in bicycle riding Octavia, a go getting society columnist and you have a novel that is eerie yet humorous. This is not your usual chilling Victorian murder mystery. Is it a murder mystery, a thriller, a literary drama or social commentary on 1890s London showing power imbalance and gender bias? All in all, it’s good storytelli ...more
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When 2 genres collide, Victorian detective novel featuring the indomitable Inspector Cutter ably or maybe not so ably assisted by Gideon Bliss, they find themselves investigating an unusual case which involves missing young girls. However, as I've mentioned this isn't just a detective novel and it also deals with the supernatural.

I loved this, Paraic O'Donnell captures the essence of a Victorian gothic mystery. He populates this rather wonderful novel with a cast a characters, and I'm hoping Bli
Nov 25, 2020 rated it liked it
I felt like this book started off SO STRONG. The interactions between Bliss and Cutter are amazing. The set-up with Octavia, Bliss, and Cutter with the missing girls is enough to keep you reading. And even when things went into the paranormal, I wasn't against it. The issue I felt with this book is that it couldn't decide whether it was a paranormal story, a gothic horror story, or a historical mystery. And in not finding it's voice, the narrative began to lag. What makes it especially painful i ...more
Darren Darker
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve just finished reading The House of Vesper Sands and I loved it. It’s the 2nd novel from Paraic O’Donnell and I found it far more accessible than his first The Maker of Swans.
The principle characters of inspector Cutter and his unwitting companion Gideon Bliss are investigating the presumed suicide of a seamstress working for a rich powerful man in Mayfair. Bliss has personal history and romantic interest in another girl, Angie Tatton, who is connected to the death but has subsequently disa
Helen Carolan
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my goodness. I totally loved this one. Part Victorian mystery, part Gothic and part fantasy, this had me gripped from the start. Gideon Bliss arrives in London to spend time with his reverend uncle only to find he's disappeared. Talking shelter in a nearby church he comes upon his foormer flame Angie Tatton who is near death and talking about the spiriters. In the morning she is gone. Gideon links up with inspector Cutter who is investigating the spiriters and their possible leader lord Stryt ...more
Anne Griffin
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another wonderful Victorian London thriller with exquisite language, humour and intrigue. Read this if you like Sarah Perry and Jess Kidd. This is a real treat with some wonderful laugh out loud moments.
It's the late Victorian era and a seamstress is locked in a room in a lord's house to complete a project for him. She finds a way out and throws herself off the roof. Meanwhile, Gideon Bliss is seeking his missing uncle when he comes across a young woman he knows in a church who seems to have been attacked or something. Gideon's search brings him into the orbit of Inspector Cutter and the two of them find that the case of the dead seamstress ties in with that of the missing uncle. This was a ver ...more
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Promised much but fell flat I'm afraid. It started off so well in terms of atomsphere, intrique and suggestion. Indeed, Esther's character and actions, Gideon's finding of Angie and then his pretence at being a policeman all motored along nicely. Inspector Cutter was a great creation. But, it all went down hill from there sadly. And the promise Octavia gave..... gave us nothing. Wilkie Collins, Dickens and Conan Doyle can rest in their beds quite easily from were I stand.
2.5 stars but rounded up to 3 because the Cutter/Gideon dynamic deserves at least that half star.

The prose itself was wonderful. O'Donnell conjures up the world of late 19th century London seemingly from the dialogue alone. I've read other authors writing in this particular time period who've made description do a lot of heavy lifting but never managed to get as close as O'Donnell does in bringing to life the sights, sounds, and experiences of life on the streets at that time just from the chara
Charlie Miller
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I was provided a galley by Tin House in exchange for an honest review, which can be found below.

The The House on Vesper Sands was perhaps the perfect cozy winter read. While none of its elements seemed novel in isolation, each piece was executed exceedingly well, and the work as a whole is delightful. Taking place in the well-trod streets of Victorian London, the book tells the story of a student, a journalist, and a detective whose paths converge in hunting the truth behind the disappearances
Dec 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: edelweissplus, 2020
Paraic O'Donnell's The House on Vesper Sands was originally published in Britain in 2018, but is now scheduled for a U.S. release February, 2021. I'm not sure why it took so long to get a U.S. publication of this title. The House on Vesper Sands is a near-perfect Gothic—although a set-in-Victorian-England Gothic, as opposed to a Gothic Gothic. The cast of characters is delightfully varied: a hardened Scotland Yard Inspector with a tragedy in his past; a lovelorn Cambridge dropout posing as a pol ...more
Laura Spira
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book very much. As an example of the recent spate of Victorian mysteries, it's a good one: well written and apparently well researched - I appreciated the informative afterword. The plot is a little melodramatic, somewhat gory and stretched the bounds of credibility in places but the characters are interesting enough to overcome this. I particularly liked Inspector Cutter's finely expressed sarcasm and he and his unusually acquired sergeant have the potential to make an enduring t ...more
Brittany (Lady Red)
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
This one was good, but a little too much of a pastiche in my own opinion. And I’m tired of writers having characters tossing out a “oh I’m *insert minority here* and it’s only mentioned once and never talked about again.
You don’t get a cookie writers. Yes we don’t want minorities to be only minorities and nothing else but you can’t just give it a sentence.
Jack Bates
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A marvellously Gothic mystery

Potentially paranormal adventures in Victorian London (and Kent) and some excellent characters. Neatly plotted, convincingly researched, and satisfying in every way.
Gemma Williams
Nov 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A totally enjoyable book! This combines a macabre plot, a deft pastiche of Victorian sensation novels, vivid and likeable characters and some wonderfully funny dialogue and is just splendid fun. I hope there will be a sequel!
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Paraic O’Donnell's first novel, The Maker of Swans, was named the Amazon Rising Stars Debut of the Month for February 2016, and was shortlisted for the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards in the Newcomer of the Year category.

Praise for The Maker of Swans

‘Lavishly entertaining…strange and captivating.’

The Independent

‘At its best, the prose is glorious, combining an ear for deep cadences of languag

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