Briefly Noted Novel: ‘The White Forest’ by Adam McOmber

whiteforestAdam McComber’s The White Forest (which I’m currently reading when I should be working) introduces protagonist Jane Silverlake, a young lady with an affinity for man-made objects that transcends psychometry. It’s as though they have souls and agendas that are much more than simply the traces of those who made them or owned them.

The novel is set in Victorian England at a time when some people are interested in the latest frontiers of spiritualism while others think anyone with odd talents is a witch. Jane has only shared her talent with two close friends and, soon after the novel begins, one of them disappears. Jane’s best friend is distraught as well as suspicious, and the police are looking at everybody.

From the publisher

In this hauntingly original debut novel about a young woman whose peculiar abilities help her infiltrate a mysterious secret society, Adam McOmber uses fantastical twists and dark turns to create a fast-paced, unforgettable story.

Young Jane Silverlake lives with her father in a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable gift that allows her to see the souls of man-made objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. Her greatest joy is wandering the wild heath with her neighbors, Madeline and Nathan. But as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by the feelings both girls develop for Nathan, and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London’s elite. Day encourages his followers to explore dream manipulation with the goal of discovering a strange hidden world, a place he calls the Empyrean.

A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent, and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late.

Praise from the Chicago Sun-Times

“What sets “The White Forest” apart from other contemporary novels is Adam McOmber’s careful attention to language. While it is the Columbia College professor’s first full-length novel, “The White Forest” is written with an imaginative and haunting prose reminiscent of H.P Lovecraft.”

Praise from Kirkus Reviews

“Teeming with as many twists and turns and shadowy characters as the narrow Victorian streets in which the tale is partially set, McOmber creates a . . . supernatural mystery that bombards the senses with rich dialogue and imagery.”

Opening Lines

“When Nathan Ashe disappeared from the ruined streets of Southwark, I couldn’t help but think the horror was, at least in part, my own design. I’d infected him, after all, filled im up with my so-called disease. The rank shadows and gaslight in the human warens beyond Blackfriars Bridge did the rest. Madeline Lee, my dearest friend, would come to hate me for what I’d done.”

This well-written mystery/historical/fantasy has lured me into another world.