3/5 stars. Overall I enjoyed this tale of forbidden love and crime set in a wonderfully detailed recreation of 1920s’ London. However, bagginess and uneven pacing stop it being a 4 or 5-star read.
Those looking for a page-turner from the opening lines be warned: you have to commit to this book and stick with it. The drama doesn’t kick in until around page 200 and things don’t really get gripping until page 300 – half way through the book. The “critical event” is followed by a page-turning section which lasts up to around page 500, where things tail off into needless repetition. I had to resist skipping ahead to the end 100 pages later.
I think my enjoyment of the book was also hampered by a lack of connection with either of the main characters, Frances and Lillian, who I started to find irritating and over-dramatic. I was more drawn to the book’s fantastic secondary characters: I loved Lillian’s boisterous family and would have liked to learn more about Frances’ mother. The rather snobby neighbours are also wonderful and the Victorian house is a character all in itself, with its creaking floorboards, dragon-like boiler and crumbling walls.