UK

  • Publisher: Constable & Robinson (Corsair)
  • Publication date: 01/02/2012
  • Book title: Tom-All-Alone's
  • Format: Hardback, Paperback & e-book

USA & Canada

  • Publisher: Random House (Delacorte)
  • Publication date: 01/05/2012
  • Book title: The Solitary House
  • Format: Hardback & e-book

UK

  • Publisher: AudioGo
  • Publication date: 01/04/2012
  • Book title: Tom-All-Alone's
  • Format: Audio book

The Solitary House/Tom-All-Alone’s

By Lynn Shepherd

A gripping Victorian murder mystery set in a grim London underworld Dickens could only hint at.

London, 1850. Fog in the air and filth in the streets, from the rat-infested graveyard of Tom-All-Alone’s to the elegant chambers in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, where the lawyer Edward Tulkinghorn has powerful clients to protect, and a deadly secret he will stop at nothing to conceal. Only that secret is now under threat from an unseen adversary - one who must be tracked down at all costs, before it’s too late.

Who better for such a task than Charles Maddox? Unfairly dismissed from the Metropolitan Police, Charles is struggling to establish himself as a private detective.  Only business is slow and his one case a dead end, so when Tulkinghorn offers a handsome price for an apparently simple job Charles is unable to resist.  But nothing, as he soon finds out, is what it seems...

Inspired by Charles Dickens’ masterpiece Bleak House, this novel is a gripping murder mystery set in a grim London underworld Dickens could only hint at – a world where girls of ten work as prostitutes, unwanted babies are ruthlessly disposed of, and those who pose a threat to great men are eliminated without remorse.

Reviews and quotes

  • John Carey
    A brilliant and sinister re-make of Bleak House, exposing the vicious underworld of Victorian London. Totally gripping.
  • Andrew Taylor, The Spectator, in 'Books of the Year 2012'
    A joyful pastiche of the 19th-century novel. Set in 1850, it occupies a fictional space between Bleak House and The Woman in White. An omniscient 21st-century narrator hovers in the manner of John Fowles in The French Lieutenant’s Woman. This is very much a crime novel, with some very nasty crimes indeed, but it’s also a witty, literate entertainment that lets the reader play Spot-the-Reference.
  • Jake Kerridge, Sunday Express, in 'Crime and Thrillers highlights' of 2012
    Shepherd's ingenious riff on Dickens's Bleak House is... a clever and playful mystery stuffed with references to the works of several eminent Victorians.
  • Susan Elkin, Independent on Sunday
    ...an imaginative spin-off. Tom-All-Alones is a novel rooted in Bleak House, although you don't need to have read Bleak House to enjoy it. It's a highly compelling, immaculately written 19th-century murder mystery with a lot of Dickensian references in the language... There's a slightly post-modern sense of looking back at a less enlightened age from a 20th-century perspective, and Shepherd can be franker about the evils of prostitution and the disposal of unwanted babies than Dickens could. It's an engaging read.
  • Laura Wilson, The Guardian
    A necessary eye for squalor, meticulous research and deft plotting, as well as the ability to handle the difficult God's-eye-view narration with aplomb make this a book ... you'll be guaranteed to enjoy.
  • Peter Millar, The Times
    This is Dickens' world described with modern precision not afraid to deal with underage prostitutes, babies murdered at birth and the Jack the Ripper killings. A grisly period detective story with a light-hearted literary conceit
  • Joan Smith, Sunday Times
    I can think of no better way to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens than to recommend Tom-All-Alone’s... This terrific Victorian mystery ... whose Dickensian horrors are twinned with a sophisticated understanding of the nature of sexual predation.
  • Barry Forshaw, The Independent
    ...both an intelligent simulacrum of the great man's style and something individual and inventive.... Tom-All-Alone's is such an enjoyable novel - something more than mere pastiche - that the strong hint at the end regarding future developments will have readers rubbing their hands in anticipation.
  • Associated Press, appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, CBS News, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle and others
    Those unfamiliar with Dickens' "Bleak House" need not worry that they won't enjoy Shepherd's "The Solitary House." At its core, Shepherd's book is a historical mystery with a flavor and character all its own. Her suspenseful story and winning prose ably serve her literary conceit. Fans of Dickens, meanwhile, will find it a treat.
  • BBC History magazine
    Brilliant Dickensian pastiche
  • Sydney Morning Herald
    A rattling yarn, told in a feasible approximation of the style of 1850, and of Dickens' complex plots, but including graphic details of a kind that are only hinted at in the original.
  • RT Book Reviews
    Shepherd is a brilliant writer with an encyclopedic knowledge of Victorian England, which she uses perfectly to surround you with atmosphere and a story you won’t put down. Not to be missed.
  • Jacqueline Thompson, The Scotsman
    An intelligent, gripping and beautifully written novel which sparkles with a bibliophilic glee that reminds us that literature should, above all else, be fun
  • Jessica Mann, The Literary Review
    A beautifully written and atmospheric addition to the large number of thrillers set in the London underworld of the 19th century ... Shepherd has perfectly caught each tone of voice, ranging from the lawyer Tulkinghorn to ... Inspector Bucket, and describes the horrors of 19th century slums more candidly than Victorian novelists ever could. Spotting the literary references adds another layer of enjoyment to what is already an absorbing story.
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
    Shepherd’s latest detective story... is a Victorian tour de force... Shepherd offers an intricate plot and a thousand details of the least-admirable side of Victorian life. A must-read
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review)
    Shepherd follows her 2010 debut, Murder at Mansfield Park, which successfully channeled Jane Austen, with an equally satisfying reworking of Bleak House
  • The Dickensian
    As befits a novel that, at its denouement, skilfully interweaves its action with that of The Woman in White, the plot is as labyrinthine and ingeniously constructed as the concealed subterranean vaults beneath Tulkinghorn's chambers... As Bucket repeatedly cautions Maddox (and the reader), nothing and no-one can be taken at face value
  • Historical Novel Society
    This ambitious novel is intellectually enthralling, with dark twists at every turn, as murky as the creeping London fogs ... This is a haunting novel that will have you guessing until the last pages, and it is not at all for the faint of heart. I pondered each subtle hint that led to the dreadful conclusion long after I finished the book.
  • Pam Norfolk, Lancashire Evening Post
    An intelligent and gripping post-modern crime novel. Beautifully written and cleverly plotted, it plunders the best of Dickens without trying to ape his genius, maintains a sense of artful playfulness amidst its gross themes and refuses to be sidetracked by fears of literary vandalism.... Despite its ‘borrowed’ themes, Shepherd’s book brims with originality and style – cameo appearances from literary characters and their creators, piquant vignettes of Victorian life and an atmosphere redolent of Dickens’ oppressive underworld make Tom-All-Alone’s a rare and witty pleasure for those familiar with the classics, and a thrilling page-turner for the uninitiated. Ever the consummate entertainer, Dickens would surely have been amused and flattered!
  • NewBooks magazine
    There is a wealth of detail in this book. Expertly, Shepherd has recreated Dickensian London but made it anew so that I never felt ‘why would you re-do Dickens’ but did feel, ‘why has no one done this before?’ I think groups will get a great deal of fun with it, especially if they also combine a reading of Tom-All-Alone’s with Bleak House. As a personal read, it’s a cracking good story, well told. Personal read: 5 stars, group read: 4 stars
  • The Bookseller's We Love This Book website
    Compellingly written and with an engaging story, Tom- All-Alone’s is a must for fans of historic mysteries
  • The Crime Fiction Lover website
    Elements of Bleak House are glimpsed throughout but it’s clear from the outset that this is very much Shepherd’s own story and should be read as such... This is a well-researched, well-crafted book that shows a deep understanding not just of the original work but also the social issues the great author championed. If you enjoyed Murder at Mansfield Park, you won’t be disappointed by Tom-All-Alone’s and I’m sure that Dickens fans would most definitely approve. This is one book you really should add to your reading list. 5 stars
  • Shots Crime and Thriller e-magazine
    Required reading for fans of Victorian crime
  • EverydayEBook website
    For those who yearn for the days of Sherlock Holmes, The Solitary House is certain to be a new fan favorite