Few debut novels garner as much buzz as Lauren Owen’s The Quick has been getting. Released by Random House in June, the novel has gotten praise from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, O, The New York Times, and many others. Tana French (In the Woods) and Kate Atkinson (Case Histories) both blurbed the book. All of this buzz paired with descriptions like literary, historical, gothic, and vampire, and comparisons to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, The Night Circus and The Historian got my attention. At 523 pages, it’s not a quick read, but Owen offers up a wonderfully creepy story filled with a sense of foreboding.
Set in the late 1800s, Charlotte and James Norbury live in a decaying Yorkshire mansion. After the death of their father, the house is shut up and Charlotte is left with a guardian and James is sent away to school. Following his graduation from Oxford, James decides to move to London to make a career as a poet. Disappointed by the unfriendliness of the city and not making any progress with his poetry, he considers leaving, until an acquaintance convinces him to take an apartment with a young aristocrat, Christopher Paige. The two form a close friendship that develops into a forbidden relationship. Wanting to escape the gossip of London society and live as they please, James and Christopher decide to travel abroad. But on the eve of their departure, the two are attacked in the streets and James disappears.
When letters to her brother go unanswered, Charlotte travels to London to find out what happened to James. When she finally locates him hiding in his apartment, he is a changed man. Hunted by strange men, James disappears again and Charlotte finds herself in danger from the same men. Rescued by a strange couple, Shadwell and Adeline, Charlotte learns that it is the Aegolius Club, an ancient and secretive club that hunts James. She is introduced to a supernatural world that she never could have believed existed. With the help of Adeline and Shadwell, Charlotte forms a plan to rescue James. But is he beyond her help?
The back stories of all the characters, the slowly building suspense and dark tone, the climax, and twist at the end all make for an extremely satisfying read. I’m looking forward to seeing what Owen does next.
You can place a hold on the book in the Deerfield Public Library catalog right now, or download the e-book or e-audiobook. For additional suspenseful reads, check out “You Might Also Like These…” at the bottom of the book’s catalog page.
This review was previously published by the Deerfield Review.