The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox

Robbed of his fortune by a rival from his school days, Edward Glyver seeks vengeance and restoration under an assumed name.

The Meaning of Night is a cunningly plotted piece of faux-Victoriana, conjuring up Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins with a soupcon of sex that doesn’t feel anachronistic at all.

Edward Glyver’s nesting-doll tale gives every character a chance to tell his or her own life story, and Cox makes each one fascinating in its own right. Despite the near-constant digressions, Cox never lets us forget that Edward is on a deadly mission, and keeps up the suspense throughout. The story opens with Edward’s murder of an innocent man but it’s not long before I came into full sympathy with his plight, despite my disdain for his wicked act.

Cox captures the Victorian tone perfectly, and I took a lot of pleasure in all the traces I found of books I love. It could be that The Meaning of Night is a little too insider-y to be enjoyed without a background in its influences, but the story is airtight and quite satisfying.

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