Janette Jenkins's Little Bones begins in London's Covent Garden in 1899, and features Jane Stretch, the daughter of a feckless family who take lodgings with a doctor and his wife. Pressed by creditors and the ne'er-do-wells with whom they associate, Jane's parents soon flit leaving their daughters to fend for themselves, and then when the pretty but dim Agnes follows suit, Jane, bright but crippled, is left on her own and the shadow of the workhouse looms large.
Things take a brighter turn when Dr. Swift offers Jane work as his assistant, but it turns out he's a medical man with a particularly narrow specialism, and when the police take an interest in his cases, Jane is implicated too.
I found this an interesting, unusual book with a rhythm of its own: on the face of it it's an atmospheric picture of the tawdry side of Victorian London, but it's also a story which implicitly asks a lot about duty and obedience, responsibility, culpability and matters of conscience. Stylistically there's a lightness and an originality to it, apparent in certain phrasing, in odd but distinctive moments, in the sum of its parts in fact, so that the overall effect seemed to me rather like that of a balloon tethered by a long string: the narrative well-grounded, the moral questions it poses floating aloft, tantalisingly just out of reach.