Aristocratic Lydia Langstone is not a practical woman. When she decides to leave her brutal husband, she packs a book but forgets a toothbrush.â€©So her familyâ€™s assumption that Lydia is too delicate to survive outside her cocoon of privilege is understandable. Nor has Lydia chosen the best time to escape. It is 1934, and London is full of the building tensions that presage World War II. Fascists and Communists clash in the streets and lecture halls of the city.â€©In Andrew Taylorâ€™s Bleeding Heart Square, London is foggy, filthy, menacing, yet Lydia sets out to find her neâ€™er-do-well father in the ominously named square of the bookâ€™s title.â€©The boardinghouse where her father lives is, or was, owned by Miss Philippa Penhow. But Miss Penhow vanished a few years before, and now the sinister Major Serridge is the apparent owner. While no one can prove that there was any wrongdoing â€” Miss Penhow is said to have left a letter explaining that she has decided go to America â€” the taint of scandal remains.â€©Lydia begins to investigate Miss Penhowâ€™s disappearance, at first, perhaps, as a way of distracting herself from her husbandâ€™s harassment and the prospect of poverty. She joins forces with Rory Wentwood, a fellow boarder who also wants to find Miss Penhow, his fianceeâ€™s nearest relative.â€©As their search continues, Rory and Lydia are inadvertently involved in the cityâ€™s political warfare. While they struggle to stay out of the way of the various factions, they learn more than they wanted about themselves and those around them.â€©Though the mystery of Miss Penhowâ€™s disappearance is at the heart of the novel, its themes and Taylorâ€™s broader canvas take it out of the realm of genre fiction. He takes an unsparing look at the generation involved in both World Wars. As Lydia tells Rory, â€œThey didnâ€™t want to see anything too unpleasant so they didnâ€™t.â€â€©Holly Fults can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2944.
Review: Andrew Taylor's 'Bleeding Heart Square' a tale of mystery
© 2013 Tampa Bay Times
Bleeding Heart Squareâ€©By Andrew Taylorâ€©Hyperion, 432 pages, $25.99