A masterful novel of necromancy, secrets, and a world on the brink of the modern age...
The year is 1785, and Thomas Peach, a gentleman of modest means, moves to a small village in the West Country, bringing with him a steamer chest of clothes, some books - and, apparently, his wife, Mrs Peach, who quickly becomes a source of fascination and suspicion to the villagers. Why is she never seen abroad? Why does Mr Peach refuse entry to her bedroom to their maidservant, who is unable to detect even a whisper of breath at Mrs Peach's door, try as she might? Does Mrs Peach even exist? And if so, is she the victim of her husband's cruelty?
A liberal and free thinker, Mr Peach is a member of a society of learned men in Bristol, one of whom is guardian of a young woman believed to be possessed by a demon. Mr Peach disagrees with this opinion, but suspicion only grows when the woman in question - whose mouth and lips are stained inexplicably black - escapes from her patron and causes panic in the countryside. Soon she is living under Mr Peach's protection. But he himself is in danger; someone - or something - has followed him from his former life in London. Thomas Peach has enumerable secrets - and one of them might just prove deadly.
An extraordinary novel . . . a tour de force - Andrew Taylor