Paraic O’Donnell | The House on Vesper Sands

house on vesper sands paraic o'donnell

The Book: 

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Characters: 

Esther, the seamstress who committed suicide
Inspector Cutter and his sidekick Gideon
Gideon’s love interest Angie
Octavia, the journalist, and her brother Georgie

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The Plot (from Goodreads):

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 a rash of missing girls, all of whom seem to have disappeared under similar circumstances?

On the case is Inspector Cutter, a detective as sharp and committed to his work as he is wryly hilarious. Gideon Bliss, a Cambridge dropout in love with one of the missing girls, stumbles into a role as Cutter’s sidekick. And clever young journalist Octavia Hillingdon sees the case as a chance to tell a story that matters—despite her employer’s preference that she stick to a women’s society column. As Inspector Cutter peels back the mystery layer by layer, he leads them all, at last, to the secrets that lie hidden at the house on Vesper Sands.

The House on Vesper Sands
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Click here for book spoilers for The House on Vesper Sands
Book spoilers ahead–if you haven’t yet read The House on Vesper Sands, I suggest you turn back now.

The Twist: 

Working orphan girls with special interior brightness (especially pure souls) were being taken by the Spiriters. Their souls were being distilled to make some kind of elixir that men could drink to feel younger, but it killed the girls in the process. Some of them turned into half-ghost half-humans. Octavia’s friend Elf was behind it, as well as Esther’s employer Lord Strythe.

The Ending:

Gideon becomes a real police officer, Cutter returns to his normal line of work, and Octavia is writing a book.

The Review: 

I don’t read much historical fiction or Victorian mysteries, so I wasn’t sure if I would like this book going into it. I’m so glad I took the chance on it, though, because I really enjoyed it! The atmosphere of this wonderful spooky mystery pulled you right into the London fog. 

I thought the characters were incredibly well-written. The banter between Cutter and Gideon had me chuckling out loud, and provided comic relief to the heaviness of the topic. I enjoyed Octavia as well as the dogged reporter. 

The plot was interesting, but as I haven’t read much in this genre I don’t have much to compare it to. I’m still undecided on how I feel about paranormal novels, but I believe it worked in this case. As a police procedural, it was entertaining but left a little to be desired as far as suspense and how the information was presented. 

The House on Vesper Sands reminded me a bit of The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, if only because I don’t often read books from this time period. The audiobook styles were similar as well. I regretted listening to Evelyn instead of reading a physical copy, but Vesper Sands was much easier to follow. I could also see this appealing to fans of Tana French. 

It seemed like the ending left an opening for a sequel. I would love to see these characters again in another novel. 

Many thanks to Tin House Publishing for an advanced reader’s copy and to RB Media and NetGalley for an audiobook version. The House on Vesper Sands will be available in the US on January 12, 2021.

house on vesper sands paraic o'donnell

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