A Victorian era crime novel. William Pinkerton is already famous, the son of the most notorious detective of all time, when he descends into the underworld of Victorian London in pursuit of a new lead on the fabled con Edward Shade. William’s father died without ever finding Shade, but William is determined to drag the thief out of the shadows.
By Gaslight proves engrossing enough to warrant its forest-depleting bulk. I found myself returning to passages not only because I occasionally lost the thread of this historical mystery's manifold plots, sub-plots and asides, but because I wanted to revisit the somber music of the telling ... Spinning fiction out of fact, Price creates an evocative world, cast not in shades of stark black and white, but rather in morally complex herringbone ... By Gaslight can be seen as Arthur Conan Doyle by way of Dickens by way of Faulkner. Intense, London-centric, threaded through with a melancholy brilliance, it is an extravagant novel that takes inspiration from the classics and yet remains wholly itself.
An engrossing throwback and clever revival of the Victorian sensation novel (a.k.a. the shilling shocker), Price’s darkly feverish page-turner is buoyed by inventive cat-meets-mice plotting, brooding, secretive and quicksilver characters, and vivid cinematic tours along dank cobbled alleyways, fetid sewage lines, gangrenous battlefields and mean dirt roads on four continents ... Vengeance, mysteries, resentment and assorted schemes animate the plot. As does a complicated triangle of relationships ... a sweeping, well-crafted chase story that remains compelling for more than 700 pages.
At its best, it will remind you of the work of Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Conan Doyle. It exudes an abundance of atmospherics mixed with indirection and subtle plotlines ... By Gaslight is a novel crammed with images and description. In this way, the author can hide clues in the seams of the novel’s dense packing. But the immense detail of the novel comes with a risk. Its effect on the reader is that it can be wearing, tempting one to miss the broader pattern of life and loss being examined ... a novel bordering on exceptional. But it requires endurance to make it to the end.