I thoroughly enjoyed Lynn Shepherd's "The Solitary House," and so I leaped at the opportunity to review this title. Shepherd's protagonist, private detective Charles Maddox, is again the main character in the tale.
This time, Maddox is still very depressed after the death of his lover. He is given a commission to interview a potential donor to the Bodleian Library, and so he goes to Vienna to meet the reclusive Baron von Reisenberg. von Reisenberg is a scientist, studying sleepwalking and other psychological phenomena, but he also has a dark side ... which Maddox accidentally discovers. This leads to some additional problems for Maddox that are not readily resolved.
At the same time, young women's bodies are being found without their heads and hearts. They have also been exsanguinated. The women are almost all lower-class, e.g., prostitutes, and so it seems that they will not be missed. However, upon Maddox's eventual return to England, he becomes involved in solving the case. In the process, he once again runs into von Reisenberg.
The tale takes place in 1850s England, in the shadow of the Great Exposition. So, there are fascinating historical tidbits thrown into the story as well. The author's decision to write the story primarily in second-person present tense, with occasional forays into the epistolary, adds immediacy to the story by drawing the reader directly in.
I found the book highly entertaining.