Children are going missing, and it is up to Leonard Miller to discover the truth behind the disappearances and to clear his own name, as thanks to his past, has him as the number one suspect. As the mystery is revealed and the true nature of why the children are going missing, Miller will find himself confronting a master villain and his own past.
When an author can fully immerse a reader in the world that they have created, with the barest minimum of descriptive passages you just know you are onto a winner. Stephen Bacon's Laudanum Nights is one such book. Bacon manages, thanks to some excellent phrasing create a landscape for this haunting tale, which fully captures a sense of reality and place that allows the reader's imagination to fully render this novellas setting, in all its glory. Laudanum Nights basks in a satisfying pseudo Victorian setting, one where you can just imagine yourself walking along its streets taking in all the sights and sounds. How he managed to this in a novella, while still leave room for a thoughtful and chilling story just shows how great a writer he is.
Bacon has also created a sympathetic protagonist, but more importantly, the manner in which Bacon deals with the protagonist's past is handled with both a maturity and sense of compassion. By using this, and using the prejudices that many people felt towards this in that dark era of our past, gives the story an extra level of momentum as he races to unravel the mystery and clear his name.
There is almost a magical quality to Laudanum Nights. The cast of characters and authentic dialogue, even the use of one of George Carlin's "seven words you can't say on TV" which rings true in the context of the story, work together to create one of those brilliant, spooky shows you used to get on the BBC at Christmas. Imagine an even creepier version of Box of Delights. With creepy dolls, burly brutes, and wizened old men, Bacon has delivered a story that captivates and chills in equal measures.
A deeply satisfying novella with great sense of place, and a perfect resolution.