TITLE: The Wicked Cometh
AUTHOR: Laura Carlin
RELEASED: February 2018; Hodder & Stoughton
GENRE: Historical Fiction
KEY INFO: Queer historical fiction, murder mystery, 19th Century London
REPRESENTATION: Female MC, F/F romance
CONTENT NOTICES: murder, poverty, descriptions of dead bodies
There’s something wicked and dangerous lurking in the grimy streets of 19th century London. At every turn of the dark, twisting alleyways it seems that some unfortunate person has gone missing, with only their fellow poverty-stricken relatives to mourn for them. So when young Hester White is given the opportunity of a lifetime – to escape from these nefarious streets and receive tutoring from an aristocratic family – she jumps at the chance to better herself. But once a Londoner, always a Londoner, and it seems that Hester just can’t outrun the poison that is seeping into every aspect of her life, dragging her back with heavy secrets and even more sinister disappearances. It will take everything in both Hester and her beautifully mysterious tutor, Rebekah Brock, to follow the darkened path that they seem to be on in order to discover who is behind all of these disappearances and survive the encroaching wickedness that is coming.
As a graduate who studied History at university, I love historical fiction when it’s done right and The Wicked Cometh is everything that I want historical fiction to be. The intriguing murder mystery plot gently unfolds through Carlin’s authentic and beautifully descriptive London that completely immersed me as a reader. Reminiscent of Dickensian London streets – grimy, poverty-stricken, and full to the brim with nefarious criminals – I felt completely transported away to the same 19th century London streets that our main character, Hester White, traverses.
Although I find it a little slow to start, once Hester arrives at Waterford Hall after an accident while searching for her missing cousin and she meets the intimidating figure of Rebekah Brock I felt completely swept away. I watched with heightened anticipation as their relationship slowly unfurled in a way which always kept me wanting more but never giving me too much at once. When the wicked secrets begin to seep back into Hester’s life and Rebekah involves Hester in her rapidly growing investigation into the disappearances of London’s poor, the story really begins to accelerate and I could hardly put the book down.
It seems that evil spreads readily from root to stock and from limb to leaf; and with so many tormentors, then how many victims?
Like the blossoming romance between Hester and Rebekah, Carlin only ever gives you just enough to keep you hanging on the edge of your seat, desperate to find out what on earth is going on. Who is behind all of these disappearances? Why does no one else seem to be investigating? And how much danger are our girls in as they sneak around the grimy streets, digging further into this wickedness? The twists and turns of the story literally had me guessing the entire way through and I love how historically contextualized the final discovery actually was.
Like many other readers, I felt that The Wicked Cometh was very reminiscent of Sarah Water’s f/f historical fiction ‘Fingersmith‘. It would be hard to read an f/f historical fiction novel that’s set in the grimy streets of London’s underworld without making reference to Fingersmith but I feel that it in no way negatively impacts upon the experience of The Wicked Cometh. I never felt like The Wicked Cometh was too similar or that it wasn’t adding anything new and interesting to the genre. And quite frankly, I am not going to turn down more historical fiction with a lesbian romance in it. Another book I would say The Wicked Cometh was similar to is also Jane Eyre, particularly when Hester goes off to Waterford Hall. So, if you appreciate Fingersmith and/or Jane Eyre then definitely pick up The Wicked Cometh too!