Fingersmith

Marcy’s been raving about this Victorian crime/love story for months, and after finishing Against the Day, I finally got around to it. Fingersmith is a period mystery that begins with a tip of the hat to Oliver Twist but quickly finds its own ground: Susan Trinder, an orphaned London thief, is sent to a remote country house as a maid to cheat a young lady out of her inheritance — and leave her in the madhouse. But the two fall in love… and then the plot goes through such carefully arranged reconfigurations that I can’t say another word for fear of ruining it inadvertently. Waters (Tipping the Velvet) has constructed a magic puzzle box of a novel that reveals layers upon layers of gothic surprises and 180 degree reversals, executed with deftness and astounding precision. The Guardian has the first chapter and a reasonably spoiler-free review.

Fingersmith. Sarah Waters, 2002. ****