"Deep waters. Dark secrets." That's the strapline on the cover of Essie Fox's new novel Elijah's Mermaid, "a tale of obsessive love and betrayal moving from the respectable worlds of Victorian art and literature, into the shadowy demi-monde of brothels, asylums and freak show tents - a world in which nothing and no one is quite what they seem to be."
The web-toed baby Pearl was found floating in the Thames one foggy night, and was brought up in a brothel known as the House of Mermaids. Now near her fourteenth birthday she discovers she is to be sold to the highest bidder.
Orphaned twins Lily and Elijah live in a secluded country house with their grandfather, but on a visit to London a chance meeting with Pearl will have repercussions for all of them, "binding their fates in a dark and dangerous way ..."
Essie Fox - who blogs at The Virtual Victorian - is of course the author of the very popular The Somnambulist which was a Channel Four TV Book Club choice earlier this year (click on the link there to watch the programme). "A spellbinding tale of lost love, grief, murder and madness in Victorian England," it features young Phoebe Turner who one night spots an enigmatic stranger in the audience at Wilton's Music Hall. When this Mr. Samuels offers Phoebe the job of companion to his reclusive wife at their country home, Dinwood Court, little does she know that the grand house may be haunted and hold the darkest of secrets.
A word about the very attractive covers Essie's novels have - they are designed by Bold & Noble whose work includes the inspired and memorable jacket for Patrick Hennessey's The Junior Officers' Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars (a book my son recommends).