While attending the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London in 1851, Albert Mirrals meets his beautiful cousin for the first time. When she begins to sing a popular tune being played on an organ, he is struck by the splendor of her voice. Although he is obviously affected by Lizzie's innocence and purity, his father know she's uneducated and not a suitable candidate for marriage. The group hastily parts ways and Albie doesn't think much about Lizzie until 10 years later, when he hears of her murder at the hands of her husband. Determined to discover why the man committed the crime on such a pure creature, Albie travels to the small, rural town of Halfoak, where traditions run deep and the advance of the new sciences and technologies unveiled at the Great Exhibition have yet to appear.
What he discovers is a town full of myths and superstitions, where the local folks are wary of strangers and conduct their business in time-tested ways that push the boundaries of reality. When his wife unexpectedly arrives in the village to share his prolonged stay, Albie begins to question his own life and ponder whether the villagers actually know more than he first surmised.
In a slow and methodical way, Alison Littlewood (The Cold Season) has produced a dark fantasy world where gossip, rumor and supposition have been creatively blended with the introspective musings of a man who suddenly must question everything--and everyone--around him. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer