A Foundation for Fallen Women. A chess automaton. An impossible theft.
Reluctant inspector of vice, Lawless must take a fruitless reckoning of London’s shadowy nether world. Hypocrisy, double standards: just what we expect from stuffy Victorian society.
Lawless is surpised to find himself fascinated by Felix, the forlorn maestro driven by mysterious sufferings to establish this charitable foundation. Nor does the Scotland Yard man foresee the trail his questions open up. From the erotic booksellers of Holywell Street down the darkening passageways of Haymarket, he discovers ever more backstreet cast-offs and casualties of the high-life bordellos, aided by the literary 9.23 Club, the urchins of the Oddbody Theatricals, and the remarkable Miss Skittles, who has seen both sides.
Every secret he uncovers points to many more covered up. But Lawless was not expecting the trail that opens up, from the erotic booksellers of Holywell Street down the darkening passageways of Haymarket bordellos to backstreet cast-offs of the high life.
When reputations are at threat, those running the show can be merciless in defending them.
Mail on Sunday, Books of 2016: “The wealth of period detail and quirky characterisation suggest this series will be around for a long time. A must for fans of Ripper Street.”
Morning Star: “An extraordinary novel, deserving of the widest readership not only for its impressive literary merits but also for the breadth and subtlety of its political, moral and philosophical exploration of “the great social evil.” Sutton doesn’t tell you what to think about these matters. But he does show you what you ought to be thinking about.
The parallels with 21st-century debates about the selling of sex are drawn without undue emphasis but are nonetheless unmissable and discomfiting. It’s a marvellous read but be warned — the subject matter is harrowing and the author shows his readers little mercy.”
Morning Star, Books of the Year: “A novel about London’s sex industry which suggests that frighteningly little has changed between the 1860s, when this book is set, and the 2010s. Lawless’s journey into hell reveals that what Victorians knew as “the great social evil” is all-pervasive, albeit invisible to those who prefer not to see it. …Readers will detect an echo of Fred Engels in this extraordinary work of historical fiction.”
The Crime Review: “So many of the crimes…are things that still unfortunately happen today. In fact, the network that Lawless uncovers, while unthinkable, still exists in some form today. It is even more chilling to see these things described with the restraint of Victorian English, and this is one of the most engaging and compelling things about this novel. …fresh, unpredictable and exciting.”
Rising Shadow: “Deliciously sinful and raw… One of the best mysteries of the year. Prepare yourself to be totally hooked.”
Shots Mag: “a thrilling investigation”